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How to Encourage Women to Consider STEM Majors


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Alicia Abella of AT&T Labs

"High school girls typically ask me how I became interested in [computer science]? What's my salary? Is it hard? I tell them, 'Yes, it's hard, but nothing worth doing is ever easy.'" says Alicia Abella, executive director of technical research at AT&T Labs.

Credit: IEEE Signal Processing Society

In an interview, AT&T Labs executive director of technical research, Alicia Abella, describes the challenges surrounding the inclusive nature of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, and how the effort to get more women involved may require a multifaceted approach.

Abella says it is important to get more students, especially females and minorities, interested in STEM because they represent an untapped pool of talent that can enhance the science and engineering fields. "The image some girls will tell me about when they think about a computer scientist is a nerdy boy sitting in a basement eating donuts with really greasy hair," she says.

Abella says it is important for young people who are interested in STEM to find a mentor or coach in the field who they trust and from whom they can get advice. In addition, parents should encourage their children to consider STEM fields, and colleges and universities could do a better job of marketing STEM programs and helping to identify the kinds of careers that students can do with a STEM degree. "If you think of life as something where you're always going to be solving problems, then you're pretty well equipped to succeed in life when you have a STEM degree," Abella says.

From U.S. News & World Report
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