By Kimberly Brown
President Obama and American firms have every reason to be concerned about the number of Americans who are pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
In the United States, 30 percent of bachelor degrees are awarded in scientific disciplines, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF), compared with 50 percent in Asia. Moreover, the U.S. has experienced a five percent decline between 2000 and 2006 in the number of foreign students relocating here to pursue those careers.
The data underscore the need to formulate strategies to enhance and promote an interest in STEM to support U.S. economic growth and continued innovation.
I attended the 2010 Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Women Leadership Network (WLN) in Japan with the U.S. State Department delegation, and the recommendations for strengthening Asian economies included providing access to employment and educational opportunities for women. An increase in the number of females pursuing STEM careers will translate to a growth in the future highly skilled technical workforce and contribute to overall strengthening of the U.S. economy. According to 2007 data reported by the NSF, women’s share of degrees in computer science, mathematics and engineering is declining even though they earn 58 percent of all bachelor’ degrees.