Verizon Innovative Learning Addresses the Lack of Women in STEM Careers

(3BL/JustMeans) Women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math careers (STEM) careers. The percentage of women in STEM careers has stagnated since 2001, particularly within the engineering and computing workforces where only 12 percent and 26 percent of the workforces are women. And the number of women working at tech companies is seriously low. Men make up 80 percent of the tech industry’s global workforce. Facebook’s workforce is only made up of 27 percent women, while Google’s is 31 percent.

Enter Verizon, which is addressing the need for more women in STEM careers by reaching middle-school girls through a three-week summer learning experience. The program is part of Verizon Innovative Learning, a program being piloted at five community colleges in rural areas in Iowa, Virginia, and Tennessee, in partnership with the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE).

Through the program, 250 middle school girls will be exposed to the fundamentals of augmented reality, coding, 3D design, entrepreneurship and design thinking principles, plus female mentors. The students will create a project identifying and solving community problems that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). After the summer program, the students will participate in monthly courses, in-person and virtually.

Verizon Innovative Learning is an initiative of the Verizon Foundation. This year, Verizon launched #weneedmore to bring attention to the need for more children to see the opportunities they have in STEM fields. Through Verizon's program, middle and high school students are presented with technology and hands-on learning opportunities. The company has committed  $160 million in free tech, free access and hands-on immersive learning in STEM and over 300,000 students have been reached.

There are about nine million STEM jobs available; over four million of those jobs are available in science and tech. Many schools in the US lack the resources and technology to prepare students for STEM careers. Verizon began partnering with the non-profit organization Digital Promise in 2014 to provide students and teachers at middle schools across the U.S. with a tablet and two-year data plan. In addition, Verizon has developed an immersive curriculum to engage students.

Verizon Innovative Learning has a program called the App Challenge to help middle and high school students create mobile apps that meet a need in their schools or communities. Any student can participate in the Challenge as prior coding skills are not required. The best in state teams are awarded $5,000 for their school STEM programs. Best in nation and fan favorite teams are awarded $15,000 for their school programs, and are given the chance to work with MIT engineers to code their apps and share them on the open-market.

Through the programs of Verizon Innovative Learning, more students, including girls, will see the opportunities that exist for them in STEM careers. And that will help change the workforce within STEM sectors.

Photo: Verizon Innovative Learning