STEM-Logo-FB-200x200Science, technology, engineering and math (also referred to as STEM) have traditionally been male-dominated spheres, but this is changing in the twenty-first century. At high school and college levels, more girls are being encouraged to participate in traditionally male-dominated fields of study. In the past decade, females have increased their participation as entrepreneurs and their involvement with start-ups as well- but gender equality isn’t the only driving force for change in the technology market.

Businesses have to embrace new technologies in order to stay competitive. Tech experts need to be attentive to marketing trends and customer requirements. The wider the variety of voices that are at the table, the greater chances are that business will succeed. Web development, search engine optimization (SEO) and web marketing are essential tools for reaching today’s customers. In today’s world, if a business doesn’t appear on the Internet and mobile apps, it’s at a serious disadvantage.

KC Startup Village LogoDiversity in the workplace has become commonplace in companies like Fox Web Creations, a Kansas City web design company. The company is part of the Kansas City Startup Village, a hub for start-ups and entrepreneurs. This multicultural, collaborative effort has given a boost to web design in Kansas City and environs. The group supports start-ups in the area with education and knowledge sharing regardless of gender or ethnic background. This type of collaboration is one of the best ways to see a return on investment for technical businesses.

The number of female participants is also rising when it comes to the internet phenomena of social media. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has been instrumental in bringing the company to its current success. Her model of discreet advertisements as part of Facebook content helped the company to become profitable by 2010. Sandberg is the first female to serve on Facebook’s board of directors and was named to the Time Magazine list of the 100 most influential people in 2012.

Women entrepreneurs are also carving a niche in web commerce. Heddy Cundle is the CEO and founder of myTab, a site dedicated to raising funds for individual travel. She began the business with the idea of people asking that, in lieu of gifts, their friends and family contribute money to a myTab account for travel expenses. This is partnered with the ability to negotiate the best deals with travel service providers using the power of crowd-sourcing.

tumblr_inline_mi7e7kYOk01qz4rgpA recent pioneer in the hard sciences is Shirley Ann Jackson, a theoretical physicist with a doctorate from MIT. Beginning as a physics researcher at ATT Bell Laboratories, she was appointed to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1995. In 2004, she was elected to the Presidency of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Time described her as “perhaps the ultimate role model for women in science.” Her greatest achievement, though, was her unrelenting promotion of science and technology initiatives; she advocated for STEM funding and had a significant influence on public policy.

Multiple efforts are going on to include more women in STEM fields. Aside from the recruiting efforts of female students, other initiatives are being carried out, too. Since only 3 percent of venture capital funding goes to women, proactive methods are needed to increase participation as entrepreneurs and tech leaders. The return on investment for this type of initiative will be more than worth the effort.

One project in the EU involves bringing 45 girls, aged 11-22, to live and work together in one location. All of them have multiple capabilities in science, tech, engineering and math, and all of them live together and collaborate on projects. This setup enables the girls to be both mentors and mentees, and it builds exponentially on their knowledge and abilities as they bounce ideas off each other. Collaborative work spaces like this are starting to be embraced by corporations for their workers because it’s the type of climate that encourages creativity.

IMG_1041Women bring diverse viewpoints to responsive web design, mobile marketing and e-commerce. The next step for the business sector is to balance the uneven distribution of the sexes when it comes to hiring. The good news is that Silicon Valley is supporting global initiatives to increase gender equality in the tech field. Last year, Intel spent $300 million on a project that succeeded in filling 43% of new positions with females or underrepresented minorities. The goal is not just to level the playing field; including the diverse talents of woman in the search for technologically skilled workers will raise the bar for everyone.