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The Semiconductor Industry Must Do More to Bring Girls and Women into STEM Careers

Aug. 1, 2023
More targeted outreach would help meet increased demand for knowledge workers.

With policy changes and new investments intended to bring production back to American soil, the semiconductor industry is now embarking on a new phase. However, a significant surge in the number of skilled and knowledgeable workers is necessary to navigate this transition successfully. Fortunately, a largely untapped labor force can contribute to meeting this new demand: women.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor,  only 7.1%  of electrical and electronics engineers are women. Now is the perfect time to increase that percentage. The coming year is shaping up to be a turning point for gender parity in the semiconductor industry and the companies that make the shift can expect an even stronger year for the industry.

Building from Education

The gender divide in the semiconductor industry is significant and systemic, even in education, and goes way back to the pre-college level. While there are no fundamental differences in the engineering field that favor any gender, male students outnumber female students almost 3 to 1 in high school engineering courses. Work needs to be done.

To begin, a big push comes from introducing children to engineering programs early in their education– an initiative Girls in STEM is already working to address, starting with the elementary school level. This extends into higher education with groups such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), encouraging colleges to recruit more women into STEM fields of study.

Companies can help to eliminate the gender divide by recruiting students from these programs for entry-level positions, or from colleges with more diverse populations to attract a variety of applicants. Organizations should also consider creative, unconventional ways to recruit women at the college level – for instance, promoting open opportunities, fellowships and internships at sorority events. This way, students can learn more about a career in STEM by discussing it with women who have gone before them.

Eliminating this gap goes beyond just recruiting talent, to establishing strategies and practices to retain employees as well. A huge piece of this puzzle is for corporations to prioritize organizational and cultural growth by providing diversity and inclusion awareness and education in areas of unconscious bias, emotional intelligence and psychological safety. A strong human resource department is at the foundation of building this within your company – becoming a department in which employees feel safe to voice concerns and serve as strong advocates.

Provide What Women Need to Succeed

Additional measures include developing and getting buy-in for fair policies that match the needs of your employees. Caregiver leave, for instance, is becoming more talked about in the industry. It’s no secret that women bear the bulk of caregiver roles and responsibilities in many households. Increasing caregiver leave periods, offering childcare subsidies or an on-site childcare facility and promoting flexible work are some other options. If a woman is supported through her years of having a family and navigating all the challenges associated, she will typically remain very loyal to the organization.

And of course, by addressing gender pay gaps through better transparency and communication, the industry will become much more attractive to top female talent.

Emerging partnerships

Emerging partnerships and concerted industry efforts are working to diversify the workforce and keep top talent. For example, the SEMI Foundation’s Mentoring Program matches university students enrolled in industry-related curriculum and employees of SEMI member companies with experienced mentors who provide career guidance. Organizations like Women in Electronics (WE) focus on creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive industry by promoting and strengthening women in management and leadership roles.

At Sourceability, it’s critical for us to partner with established organizations like WE that are already doing the work to bring more women into the industry. We cannot accomplish this alone. It will take a collective effort to not only recruit more women but foster their advancement and long-term careers.

Ultimately, shifting culture and industry-hiring norms is a marathon and not a sprint. Therefore, organizations need to be committed to seeing diversity as a long-term, strategic priority.

In the semiconductor industry, the employment and advancement of women could be key drivers of future growth. Several studies have highlighted the  numerous benefits  of having more women in senior positions, including increased profitability, greater social responsibility and better customer experiences.

It is high time for the semiconductor industry to fully embrace the potential of this talented workforce. Let us finally commit to tap into the benefits of gender diversity and inclusivity in our industry.

Susan Randolph is supplier relations manager at Sourceability, a global components supplier.

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