More specifically, the panelists spent much of the night discussing whether an “A”, representing the arts, should be added to the acronym: “STEAM”.
Jennifer Scandariato, director of test engineering at iCIMS, said that by including the arts within that scope, it raises the potential to get young women interested in these professions.
“By 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available in the computing related fields,” she said, citing a study she had recently read. “U.S. graduates are on track to fill 29 percent of those jobs; women are on track to fill just 3 percent.”
Scandariato, who said her 12-year-old daughter excels in the arts, said she can see the effects of that inclusiveness in her own household.
“I like the fact it excited them and that it brought a new dimension,” she said. “I can bring that into tech.”
“The teacher is a facilitator. I propose a question, the kids propose a solution, they have to problem solve, see what works, collaborate and revise,” she said. “It not only shifts more girls toward technology, but it also makes them all use the right and left brain at the same time, they have deeper understanding and they remember things longer.
“So, for me, STEAM has always made a lot of sense and I love that it is getting more girls interested. It definitely is a door for them.”
Blaise Bifulco, senior manager of user experience at iCIMS, said that bringing an artistic and female perspective into STEM fields helps to foster a sense of empathy in the development stage.
“I think it’s empathy, humanizing and communication: women are really known for communicating,” she said. “I think that those are some areas that we can really benefit from.”
Joel Auerbach, founder of Building S.T.E.A.M., said that gender equity is imperative for the future.
“I think that women need to be very forceful in pursuing what’s important to them and understand that it’s going to be a fight,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that need to catch up, but I think that, if we’re going to have a better society, you ladies are going to need to do it.”
Follow Sheldon on Twitter at @SheldonAndrewJ.