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Importance of STEM Education

Importance of STEM Education

Earlier this week, at the Annual World Economic Forum, I participated in a discussion on the future of gender parity. We have come a long way since I started in the workforce, but there is still more that can be done to achieve this goal.

Education is key to getting ahead, and in the United States we’ve worked hard to get that message to young women. Beginning in 1995, women in the U.S. began to access higher education in greater numbers than men. In 2015, 60 percent of women age 25 and older had completed some college or more, compared with about 58 percent for men. And roughly a third of women in this age group had a bachelor’s degree or higher – compared to just 8 percent in 1967.

Women in the U.S. now earn about half of all medical degrees (up from 8.4% in 1970) and half of all degrees in dentistry (1% in 1970), law (5.4% in 1970), and MBAs (3.6% in 1970).  Women also now hold more payroll jobs in the U.S. than men.

Yet the overall earnings gap between men and women in the labor force persists, despite the rising number of women with college degrees. This is partly because women college students tend to major in fields that lead to lower-paying jobs than their male counterparts.  For example, only 33% of finance majors are women and that is among the highest paying careers in business.

As Secretary of Transportation, it is good to see WEF highlighting the need to get more women and girls interested in pursuing careers in the STEM disciplines, which lead to very good paying jobs. Whenever I’ve had the opportunity, I have tried to launch programs that empower women.  As Director of the Peace Corps, I launched the first entrepreneurship training programs in the emerging democracies, with an emphasis on empowering women. As Secretary of Labor, the Department achieved parity—half of all high level non-career appointees were women.  I also launched campaigns to help educate women about the value of financial independence, and investing wisely for retirement. 

As Secretary of Transportation, I’m continuing to urge women to pursue education in STEM disciplines through initiatives like the Women in Aviation Advisory Board.  And DOT’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, which helps women-owned small businesses successfully compete.

Transportation today is synonymous with innovation and advanced technology.  There are a lot of career opportunities within the transportation sector and hopefully a lot more women in the future will be pursuing them.

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