Encouraging STEM #3: Create a Safe Environment

This is part of a continuing series by Carrie Rogers-Whitehead, providing in-depth looks at each point from her article, “5 ways to advocate for women in STEM”  Check back weekly for new installments!

“{the work to} provide a welcoming environment where everyone
is valued and contributes needs to be constant”
– Susan Castillo, Vice President Project Lead the Way


Needed: A positive space for women to explore STEM

Just like a plant in the right environment-receiving the optimal balance of water, sun and carbon dioxide-has the best chance to grow, women with a safe and welcoming environment have the best chance to reach STEM career and education heights.

Here are some ways men and women, parents and teachers can help create that environment:

Be a Role Model
Mackenzie McClung, the founder of the STEM advocacy group Galgorithms,  describes her experience of having a supportive female professional and “inspirational industry mentors,” which gave her “the vision and drive to thrive in a predominantly male environment—which was, at first, intimidating.” Mackenzie found mentorship so important she included it as a main focus of Galgorithms, featuring real-life role models in STEM fields.

Paid Leave
Tech companies have been figuring out that one way to retain women and increase profits is by providing paid leave policies. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and more have generous paid leave policies, and other companies are following suit.  Donna Morris, Adobe’s senior vice president of human resources says that “We know that better paid leave benefits are critical to our overall growth, to our ability to attract great people, and to keep them in the company.”

Have Men Involved
Men can be involved in various ways, from encouraging their daughters to encouraging their students. In particular, one way men can help is by being mentors and help pass along the informal types of knowledge an employee may not be aware. More important than mentorship, however, is sponsorship. Sponsorship is when a mentor not only advises but advocates for and promotes their protégé. On average men hold more senior positions in STEM fields and can advocate and sponsor women from a more advantageous position.


 Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is a senior librarian with Salt Lake County Library, teaches at Salt Lake Community College, and is a regular contributor at KSL.com. She holds a Masters in Library and Information Science and Masters in Public Administration and is passionate about women’s education. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her preschool son and husband. Contact her at rogers-whitehead@hotmail.com


For More Info Check Out:
Encouraging STEM #1: Make Women Visible
Encouraging STEM #2: Find Role Models
Encouraging STEM #4: Reframe the Conversation

Encouraging STEM #5: Create Partnerships

The UWEI Research & Policy Brief: Utah Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics)

Tech's Selfish Reasons for Offering More Parental Leave
Sixteen Companies with Extremely Generous Parental Leave
Mentors are Good. Sponsors are Better.