Solving the Gender Divide: The Future of Women in Science

by Aman Singh Das | February 28, 2011

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Corporate social responsibility is, above all, about connecting the dots.

Late last year, Akhila Vijayaraghavan-- author of Green Den and a Justmeans staff writer-- made the argument that the field of sustainability is suffering because of an absence of scientifically-trained graduates. She wrote:

One of the biggest drawbacks in environmental management is the lack of holistic thinkers. Breaking up the environment into bite-sized bits and attacking problems associated with only those specific areas will create more problems than actually solve issues.

And:

Everything in the environment is linked to something else and it needs to be thought of as a whole system in order to arrive at solutions. By some quirk of brain mechanism, a certain kind of people are drawn to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and through natural inclination and academic training, graduates from these fields are taught to think holistically.

These are the kind of people that need to be given opportunities in the environmental field.

But, who works in corporate social responsibility and sustainability?

According to a June, 2010 study by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship (BCCCC), "women outweigh men by a 3:1 margin overall."

Further, "their numbers reduce to less than half in senior executive positions, with 49.7 percent of senior management jobs accounted for by men."

Future of Women in science, technology, engineering and mathConnecting these two inherently separate observations is Dow Chemical.

In a virtual event on March 1, 2011, 60 women representing a diverse spectrum of experiences will discuss how to increase female representation in the sciences as more "abandon traditional career paths for more ambitious ones."

The big question: How can companies like Dow Chemical and leading universities work together to expand women’s leadership in chemistry and the sciences?

As Vijayaraghavan argues, a science education equips you with analytical skills that are hard to fit into business development or management curriculum. If driving change at your organization, working in corporate citizenship, sustainability, or community involvement is on your list, getting an education in science could be your edge over other jobseekers.

Recently, a sustainability executive at a prominent technology company noted that he received more than 150 resumes for one job posting. What led to the final pick? A background in engineering and knowledge of GRI principles. Chances are, continued the exec, had the chosen candidate not invested time in that latter specialization, she/he would have still got the job over the other 149 business majors.

While this is not in any way meant to undervalue the importance of business acumen, the anecdote does underline a question everyone should be asking themselves in today's market: What is your edge?

Tune in to Dow Chemical's Future of Women in Chemistry & Science tomorrow at 11:00am EST to hear the 60-minute video and interact with the speakers in live Q&As.

Disclaimer: I am one of the speakers for the event and while I don't have a background in science, I believe that there is a direct correlation between today's social and economic problems (gender disparity, race diversity, economic inequality, imbalanced business opportunities, environmental issues, and social) and the skills required by today's workforce to solve them.

Filed Under: CSR

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