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GM’s Mary Barra Urges Action to Boost Women in Science, Engineering

March 8, 2018
Too many women who graduate with STEM degrees end up working in unrelated fields, cites a report co-led by the automotive CEO.

Governments and companies should do more to attract and retain women and people from other underrepresented groups to science-related fields, a new report co-authored by General Motors Co. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra says.

The report was published Thursday by a women’s business council set up by Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau, and includes recommendations for increasing the number of women who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering or math, known as the STEM subjects, and reducing barriers to keep women in the field throughout their careers.

“To leverage the widest possible range of ideas and creativity, we must tap into the entire population in all its diversity,” the council said in the report, which was co-led by Barra and Linamar Corp. Chief Executive Officer Linda Hasenfratz. “If half the population is not playing its full role in ground-breaking fields such as artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, advanced materials and 3D printing, we face a grave risk of debilitating labor shortages and, as a result, slower growth for the entire economy.”

The report, released on International Women’s Day, is the second of five that will be released by the The Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, launched last year. In a statement Thursday, Trudeau said the report “highlights the important work that we all need to do.”

Barriers to raising the proportion of women in STEM fields include workplace conditions, a lack of access to key creative roles and a sense of feeling stalled in one’s career, the report said, adding too many women who graduate with STEM degrees end up working in unrelated fields.

It called on:

  • Organizations to set goals for under-represented minority participation in activities.
  • Schools to expand STEM curriculum such as in computer science.
  • Universities to hire more women to teach STEM courses.
  • Companies to develop retention programs for women in the field.
  • Governments to lead development of STEM portals that show career-planning options.

In a news release, Barra said the share of girls interested in studying computer science plummets from middle school to high school. “These girls need a path, they need support, they need more role models,” she said. “As industries continue to transform, improving access to STEM education is not only crucial to our ability to innovate, it helps communities attract and keep good jobs that will drive the future.”

The council’s first report urged greater support for women entrepreneurs.

By Josh Wingrove

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