Breaking new ground for girls

The news about women slowly advancing in vital life sciences careers is discouraging, but not dire thanks to efforts in cities like Lynn to steer more young women with cutting-edge 21st century skills into life sciences.

The city’s public schools are building a solid foundation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skill development programs. This concerted effort rooted in elementary schools has branched out to other local educational institutions.

Progress is being made at the primary school level, but girls and young women attracted to STEM have a long way to go, according to new reports, before they become leaders in science-related industries.

The State House News Service quoted a report from the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council and the executive recruiting company Liftstream examining the state of gender diversity in the Massachusetts life sciences sector.

The report found that while men and women aspire to reach “C-suite” executive and board positions at the same rate, women hold 24 percent of C-suite posts and 14.4 percent of posts at the board level.

Across Lynn’s public school landscape, STEM is treated by teachers and administrators as a skill area extending far beyond traditional teaching methods. Lynn educators understand the importance STEM skills play in obtaining a job in 2017. Lessons are still taught in classrooms using textbooks. But today’s school children are Information Age creatures plugged into smartphones.

Local schools have benefited from General Electric professionals who spend time and share their talents with Lynn students. Girls Incorporated views science-oriented projects and field days as important tools for providing girls with the confidence to aim for higher education and stride into STEM careers.

Girls Incorporated’s mission makes the High Street program well-suited to equip girls to become tomorrow’s STEM leaders.

The News Service quoted the Council report as listing several obstacles facing women seeking to become high-tech industry leaders, including “… restricted opportunities for progression, higher levels of bias, lesser pay rises, fewer formal evaluations, less mentorship/sponsorship, longer tenures, less likelihood of increased responsibility, and misalignment with company culture.”

Fortunately for girls and young women in Lynn, city public schools are closely aligned to the North Shore Workforce Investment Board and North Shore Community College. Both institutions are run by strong women leaders who work with Lynn School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham to translate education into career development.

The newly-expanded health courses at the college’s Lynn campus are a great example of opportunities connecting local high schools, male and female, to a profession that demands STEM skills and rewards dedicated people with career advancement and high-paying salaries.

The Council report concluded it is ultimately up to companies to implement balanced recruitment and promotion measures, counsel and sponsor women in their careers, and help women reintegrate after parental leave.

The girls attending Lynn schools today will be the women who will work to implement these measures and fill out the ranks of female leaders in STEM jobs.

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