American education is behind the eight ball in getting children prepared for careers in computer science. Only 10 percent of K-12 schools in the United States teach computer science, and there is projected to be more than 1 million fewer computer science graduates for tech jobs coming available in the next 10 years across the country.

Girls and women are even more behind, and women continue to be under-represented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. Collectively, the industry has been making great strides with many companies, including NetApp, making it a priority to engage with high schools and universities to encourage young women to explore the possibility of an IT/STEM career.

Last week, an interesting study from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) found that while there are more women working in the industry today, we have to find a way to keep them in the field and help them find success.

While 80 percent of the women who participated in the study love the work they do, there is great room for improvement. Employment opportunities in IT and other high-tech fields continue to grow, but only one-third of the IT workforce is female, and an even smaller percentage of women work in tech management positions.  The reasons, according to the study’s respondents, were startling, including:

  • Women in science and high-tech fields are 45 percent more likely than their male peers to leave the industry within a year.
  • One-third of senior leaders — both men and women — who work in science, engineering and technology fields reported that a woman would never reach the top position in their companies.
  • More than a quarter of U.S. women in these industries say they feel stalled in their careers.
  • One-third of U.S. women feel excluded from social networks at their jobs.
  • 72 percent of women in the United States perceive bias in their performance evaluations.

NetApp is working hard to help move things in the right direction for young women. We not only realize that we need to recruit women to IT/STEM positions, but we need to help them find mentors and create networks with like-minded students and professionals. For example, we will be holding a Women in Technology event next week at Salisbury University in Maryland to share information about tech jobs, and, more importantly, provide attendees with positive role models of successful women in the industry.

Greater attention to the gaps in science education in America will help not only women, but also the industry as a whole. We look forward to continuing our efforts with college and high school students to create a better future.