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Wanted: Women to Lead in the Fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

Why is it that women hold nearly half of all jobs in the U.S., but less than 25 percent of jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields? These jobs offer incredible opportunities for women. They pay well, have less of a gender wage gap than other fields and—even more exciting—they are the jobs that drive the economic growth and advancement of societies.

On October 7th, hundreds of San Diego technology professionals, as well as faculty and students from local universities and schools, gathered at Qualcomm in San Diego for the 2nd Annual Convergence of Women, Technology and Innovation Event to discuss building the pipeline of girls and women in STEM and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

During the event, Susan Hockfield, Ph.D., President Emerita of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Qualcomm board member, delivered an inspiring keynote address about her fascinating personal journey to success, from acquiring her first microscope in 5th grade to becoming a renowned neuroscientist and the first woman president of MIT.

Studies show that many young girls are interested in STEM in their early years, but that their interest declines significantly from middle school to college. According to a recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, women are thriving in many areas of science, however, in engineering schools, they account for barely 18 percent of undergraduates in the nation. These engineering schools are the institutions that are awarding record numbers of bachelor’s degrees that are needed to obtain some of the jobs with the highest starting salaries. In the job market itself, the total number of IT jobs in the U.S. is expected to grow 22 percent by 2020. Worldwide, the sector is predicted to grow three times faster than any other industry.

Through Qualcomm Wireless Reach™ and other Qualcomm programs, we are taking steps to close this gender gap. Last month, we announced our commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative’s (CGI) Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech) program. Initially focused on India and the U.S., WeTech will link girls and women to university scholarships in engineering, leadership and technical skills training, mentors and internships that prepare them for tech careers.

Within Qualcomm, we have several professional women’s groups, including Qualcomm Women in IT (QWIT), and notably, Qualcomm Women in Science and Engineering (QWISE), which co-hosted the Convergence Event with Wireless Reach and Qualcomm’s Global Inclusion & Diversity team. QWISE is an internal employee driven organization that plays a key role in recruiting and supporting professional development of our women engineers. The group has an outreach program whereby QWISE members help educate local middle and high school girls and provide an introduction to careers in science and engineering.

Bridging the STEM and ICT gender gap is critical for economic and social advancement, and for providing technology companies with the diverse skills and perspectives necessary to thrive. For this reason, it’s important to think of this not only as a gender issue, but also as an innovation issue – and I am proud we are taking action.

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