Women and minorities are historically underrepresented in engineering fields. In particular, though, women face a shortage of opportunities and resources as girls that are critical to establishing the skills, knowledge, and passion to pursue engineering degrees and fulfilling engineering careers. As a result, only 18 percent of bachelor's degrees in engineering are earned by women.
For more facts and figures on women and girls in engineering (and a whole lot more), browse our growing catalog of STEMtistics and use them in your next presentation to help make the case for STEM education.
With the end of another school year upon us, we here at CTEq are planning our summer adventures. But our hiking trips, picnics on the beach, and lazy fishing days pale in comparison to the activities of some thrill-seekers. In fact, it was on this day in 1953 that Edumund Hillary of New Zealand and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzind Norgay became the first exploreres to reach the highest point on the surface of the Earth, the summit of Mount Everest.
At 29,035 feet above sea level, the summit of Everest soars up to about two-thirds of the way through Earth's atmosphere - where most of us have only ever been in an airplane - and everything from the temperature to the oxygen levels to the air pressure are treacherous at best and deadly at worst. In the past sixty years, major advancements in climbing gear, the study of topography, and even changes to the mountain itself have meant a total reinvention to the approach of summiting Everest.
Since their historic ascent, thousands of climbers have taken on Mount Everest - even a 13 year-old! - in the hopes of standing triumphant atop its peaks. While not all have succeeded or even survived the journey, brave explorers continue to train their minds and bodies, study the mountain's topography, advanced their gear, and risk everything for the chance to join the ranks of those that have conquered Everest. Their's is the dedication and passion of fellow explorers, like scientists, engineers, theoretical mathematicians, who all work at brink of innovation and discovery.
The first British expeditions to attempt the ascent of Everest included mountaineer George Mallory, who was famously asked why he and his team would risk their lives to reach its summit:
This spirit of curiosity and fearlessness has lifted the likes of Edmund Mallory and Tenzing Norgay to the top of the world. Think of where it can take students with a curiosity for STEM!
Last week, we learned that rocket science isn’t rocket science. That is, it is not an abstract, narrow field reserved for an elite group of devoted brainiacs who don’t get out much. Quite the opposite: it’s one of the coolest fields there is.
How do we know? CTEq was invited to spend much of last week rubbing shoulders with rocket scientists—a.k.a. “aerospace engineers”—at the 30th annual Space Symposium in lovely Colorado Springs. CTEq member company and Commitment to Excellence Signatory United Launch Alliance (ULA), which sends more satellites into space than any other American company—more than one a month this year alone, invited us to attend as their special guest. The event as an eye-opener for us, and everyone we met there made clear, they’re having a lot of fun doing it.
It’s not hard to see why. After all, it is ULA that launched the Mars Rover into space, and the satellites they send into orbit bring us our GPS, television signals, critical data about our natural resources, and many other things besides. ULA engineers are constantly devising new ways of breaking boundaries in space travel. One told me how ULA and a company that makes race car engines were collaborating to design revolutionary new rockets that go much farther on less fuel.
What’s more, space might travel might come within reach for many more people in the decades ahead. Companies and even metropolitan airports are working together to make commercial space flight a reality. At $250,000 a pop, the cost of a ticket is a tad steep these days, but the day may come when flying into orbit might be every bit as easy as flying to Orlando.
All this could spell opportunity for enterprising young people in search of exciting careers. Many other companies are space business, including CTEq members like The Aerospace Corporation, Boeing, BAE Systems, and even Booz Allen Hamilton. Yet the aerospace industry remains the province of mostly white men: roughly 25 percent of aerospace employees are female, and about the same share are Black or Latino. As white men dwindle as a share of the population, and more rocket scientists edge towards retirement, that’s hardly a strong recipe for the future.
One of CTEq’s founding Board members was Sally Ride, whose early dreams of space made her a pioneer in space flight and one of the nation’s most passionate advocates for getting many more young people hooked on STEM. Her message could hardly be more timely. As impressed as we were with the Space Symposium, we can't wait to see what's next -- and the new generation of aerospace engineers who will bring it to fruition.
This week, Change the Equation is recognizing four STEM education programs as among the nation’s best. Engineering Adventures, The Power of Data Project, the STEM Equality Pipeline, and VISTA will join 38 other programs that have gone through our very rigorous review process to win a coveted place in our STEMworks database of proven programs. Two other initiatives— Water Investigations and CompuGirls —will be recognized as Promising Programs that deserve more support and development.
CTEq had an invaluable partner in this work. Science Foundation Arizona gathered its own expert reviewers to evaluate Arizona STEM education programs, ultimately selecting The Power of Data from a long list of applicants. In addition, SFAz worked with CTEq to design and test a new strategy for selecting Promising Programs that, with time and mentoring, could take their place alongside the nation’s best. This partnership (and more like it to come) aims to rally the entire STEM education community around high standards for quality.
Funders who invest money in STEMworks programs are likely to get a big return on their investment. Independent experts have carefully reviewed programs against CTEq’s rigorous Design Principles for effectiveness, and less than 30 percent have made the grade. But when resources are stretched thin, it's critical that the education and business communities work together in helping excellent STEM programs rise to the top! CTEq member and Commitment to Excellence signatory Freeport-McMoRan is an avid supporter of SFAz, STEMworks, and the belief that quality matters.
There are surely thousands of STEM programs in the United States. At a time when we need all the STEM talent we can get, this is good news! However, CTEq members understand that smart, data-driven philanthropy strengthens students and exemplary STEM programs alike to accomplish their goals around STEM literacy.
And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming reopening of the application process -- maybe your program will be the next one admitted!
Needless to say, things have been very exciting around CTEq during the past few weeks! Aside from the launch of our redesigned website and our National STEM Summit, we've got another huge development that we're thrilled to announce: the Commitment to Excellence in STEM.
At launch, twenty-six companies became Charter Signatories to the Commitment to Excellence, a reaffirmation of the promise they made when joining CTEq: to help ensure that every U.S. high school graduate is STEM literate and on the path to a productive career. These corporate leaders have united to advocate for high-quality STEM opportunities for all students.
The Commitment, the first of its kind, has four core beliefs:
The belief that the corporate community can mobilize in new and more effective ways to advance STEM literacy.
Together, companies can have more impact as a collaborative force than they could alone.
The belief in the transformative power of higher standards for STEM education in the U.S.
Signatories believe in and advocate for a high bar in math and science so we can maintain our innovative edge.
The belief that data should inform STEM advocacy at the state-level.
Signatories are using data like in Vital Signs to promote STEM policies and practices that have significant impact.
The belief in data-driven corporate philanthropy that funds STEM programs that work.
Signatories will use resources like STEMworks to ensure that CSR is effective in helping all students graduate with STEM life skills.
The Commitment was announced during last week’s National STEM Summit, and featured a keynote address from Vice President Joe Biden.
In his remarks, Vice President Biden reiterated that "educating our young people is the most critical responsibility we have as a nation." Through the Commitment, Signatories have solidified their dedication to CTEq’s mission and made STEM literacy a business priority. Representatives from the companies rallied support around last week's launch and helped to spread the crucial message about strengthening STEM literacy.
Visit the Commitment to Excellence section of our website to learn more. Also, follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #Commit2STEM and let us know what you think in the comments. Are you a member company who’d like to sign on? Contact us!
Charter Signatories to the Commitment include:
Carolina Biological Supply Company
Exxon Mobil Corporation
Hitachi High Technologies America, Inc.
LMI Aerospace, Inc.
Sally Ride Science, Inc.
The MITRE Corporation
Time Warner Cable
United Launch Alliance