STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematic) jobs are growing at a much faster rate than other careers, and companies are challenged with finding qualified people to fill these positions. As an employer in the technology sector, CA is hugely impacted by this trend and is committed to advancing STEM learning and reaching underrepresented groups.
A recent example of CA's STEM outreach is The STEM10, a 10-episode video series launching today on Amy Poehler's Smart Girls website and social platforms. CA created the docuseries with digital entertainment studio New Form to encourage diversity in STEM.
I had a chat with Erica Christensen, CA's VP of Corporate Social Responsibility, and asked how CA is impacted by the STEM skills gap and what else the company is doing to expand access to computer science education.
HL: Who is CA targeting with its STEM skills programs?
EC: Our future as a company, as an industry, is hinged upon employees who are trained and well-versed in STEM subjects. That's what we need. If we want to be able to fill the positions, we have to tap all talent. We can't afford to leave anyone behind. As most everyone knows at this point, STEM careers have traditionally been dominated by men, and there is an underrepresentation of women and minorities. Our programs focus on the advancement of STEM learning among underserved youth, women and girls, and students of color.
HL: Why are these groups so underrepresented in tech?
EC: There are lots of reasons. It has to do with entrenched stereotypes, limited access to good education, insufficient resources. Sometimes these young people don't have parents who have gone to college and don't know about the opportunities out there. It's so many different things, including internalizing society's belief that they are incapable of mastering STEM subjects. We need to let these young people, who are part of a generation defined and enabled by technology, know there is a place for them in this field, and provide the role models in this area they may not have.
HL: How can companies inspire more women, girls, and underserved youth to get excited about tech?
This is a long-term investment by CA. We are committed to encouraging the next generation of IT leaders and working closely with young people, their parents, and their communities in promoting STEM learning. You need to get to these young people early and let them know about the opportunities out there. Our programs span the entire STEM pipeline from pre-school, kindergarten, middle school, and high school to young adulthood. We're trying to reach these young people at every stage of their learning journey. We have to get them interested, keep them interested, and get them into the workforce.
The STEM10 docuseries is one example of how we're reaching out directly to young people. We're showing the amazing things other young people have done and are letting them know they can do this, too. The series profiles 10 innovators across multiple STEM-related careers including actor Jaden Smith (The Get Down, The Karate Kid), who founded the Just Water group, which combines for-profit energy and non-profit motives with the goal of offering affordable products with impact. It also features 13-year old Emma Yang, who developed apps that diagnose concussions and help Alzheimer's patients.
HL: What kind of STEM programs does CA currently have?
We have STEM programs all over the world, everywhere we operate. One of our biggest programs is the Tech Girls Rock initiative with Boys and Girls Club America. We hold workshops for girls throughout the U.S., where they spend time with CA employees - both men and women. We make the experience as fun and exciting as possible; doing STEM-focussed scavenger hunts, coding activities, and decoding cryptography problems. We've also introduced a DIY STEM component, where the girls are introduced to the subjects of STEM through hands-on activities before the workshops, so they're excited when we get there.
Having said that, it's not all about CA. While we would love for these youngsters to come and work at CA someday, it's more about getting them interested in the technology field in general, and helping to grow the number of women and girls and young people from underrepresented groups in the tech workforce.
CA also has partnerships with nonprofits like Code.org, DonorsChoose.org, Girls Who Code, IT-oLogy and PENCIL, which are encouraging Pre-K-12th-grade students to discover an interest in tech. We also support post-high school programs through partnerships with organizations including the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology and NPower, and work with nonprofits like 100Kin10, to engage with other organizations focused on the advancement of STEM learning.