Around the world and across every industry, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are profoundly transforming society. Computers, transistors, data, and algorithms—and the experts who build and utilize these powerful technologies—are propelling communities and markets forward. Simply put, STEM workers are our world’s change agents, which is why the gender imbalance in the STEM community must be urgently addressed.
More than half of all college graduates are women, but according to the American Association of University Women, women earn only 20 percent of physics, engineering, and computer science bachelor’s degrees. Women make up nearly half the total U.S. workforce, but just a quarter of the STEM workforce.
STEM is the work of tomorrow, and it is today’s path to success. STEM employment is predicted to balloon by almost 17 percent between 2010 and 2020. So why aren’t women pursuing STEM degrees and careers? Is it because they are not great at math? Are they disinterested in science? Of course not. Millions of girls and young women would earn STEM degrees and pursue STEM careers if they had one simple thing: encouragement.
Today, only 15 percent of high school girls in the U.S. express interest in pursuing STEM college majors or careers (compared to 40 percent of high school boys). This is unacceptable. It is our responsibility to make sure that all girls can find a place in STEM. We need to encourage and support them as they begin their STEM education, and transition into a STEM career. But without an organized program, it’s difficult for professionals to know how to help and connect with these young women.
Enter Million Women Mentors (MWM), a STEMconnector® initiative. MWM is a collaborative effort between 60 national partners to provide over 30 million girls and women worldwide with STEM mentors. MWM will support one million STEM mentors—so far, 500,000 have pledged to mentor—to increase girls’ interest in pursuing STEM education and careers, and give them the confidence they need to thrive.
Through an automated, scalable and easy-to-use platform, MWM eliminates the obstacles that have stymied past efforts of similar scope. MWM’s program gives STEM professionals a choice of mentorship opportunities (face-to-face, online, paid internships or apprenticeships, workplace mentoring, or sponsorship) in order to reach and assist young women of all demographics.
PepsiCo chairs MWM’s global leadership council, and is committed to addressing the challenge of helping young women find careers in STEM. In 2015, PepsiCo boosted its MWM participation by mobilizing over 100 mentors in the United States. In addition, PepsiCo launched MWM’s first pilot program outside the U.S, in Mexico. Over the course of the 2015-2016 school year, 36 volunteer mentors will pair with a first-year STEM student from Universidad Iberoamericana. In 2016, this program will be replicated by other universities, high schools, and companies. PepsiCo’s goal is to sponsor 1,000 mentors in areas beyond the U.S. and Mexico, including France, Poland, and Dubai.
Together, MWM and PepsiCo had a vision for a STEM revolution—one mentor, and one girl, at a time. We’ve already seen some amazing progress, but imagine what could happen if every STEM professional made a commitment to mentoring one-on-one for just two hours a month. We could truly change the game.
Maya Angelou once said, “In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care.” We all care about the phones in our hands, the computers on our desks, and the cars that we drive. But we must care even more about the girls who want to invent, explore, and discover the next generation of amazing STEM breakthroughs, but who just need a little encouragement to do so.
We can be the catalyst, and these girls can—and will—build the future.
 U.S. Department of Commerce: Economics and Statistics Administration https://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acs-24.pdf
 U.S. Department of Commerce: Economics and Statistics Administration
 The White House Council on Women and Girls 2012 https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/email-files/womens_report_final_for_print.pdf
 myCollegeOptions.org®/STEMconnector Cooperative Research Program (2015)