Last week, I was privileged to represent AT&T at the Million Women Mentors program launch in our nation’s capital. More than 100 corporate and not-for-profit leaders gathered to help kick off this new initiative that challenges men and women in science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) fields to support a more diverse STEM workforce by pledging to mentor girls and young women. I was there as a guest of MentorNet, a social mentoring platform led by Dr. Mary Fernandez, most recently a prominent researcher at AT&T Labs. Mary has written extensively about the importance of mentorship to ensure that women and minorities are represented in STEM ranks. MentorNet’s platform is one solution that will facilitate the matching of mentors and mentees.
The program’s launch largely focused on debunking stereotypes that equate science and technology with “uncoolness.” In fact, a group of four Science Cheerleaders (who knew?) kicked off the event. The cheerleaders, who support professional sports teams in and around the D.C., work as public health professionals, IT engineers and satellite intelligence analysts when they’re not on the sidelines. They make it their mission to playfully challenge stereotypes and encourage women to pursue careers in STEM. They, like all of us at AT&T, see no reason why science and “cool” things like cheerleading should be mutually exclusive.
Frankly, we need more cheerleaders to help bring attention to our nation’s STEM talent crisis. We simply aren’t graduating enough STEM majors to fill the needs of employers in the immediate and more distant future.