Big Tech Encouraging Girls to Pursue STEM Careers

By Ad Council InSites Archives
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Research shows that while many young girls like STEM subjects -- science, technology, engineering and math -- they lose interest as early as middle school, continuing through high school and college, leading to an underrepresentation of women in STEM careers. In fact, although women make up half of the total college-educated workforce in the U.S., they only represent 25 percent of the STEM workforce, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.  That’s why the Ad Council brought together tech behemoths -- GE, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Verizon -- as partners to launch the “She Can STEM” campaign, to encourage tween girls to pursue STEM interests.  Facebook, Twitter and Google will promote the campaign through their platforms.

“When girls don’t feel encouraged and empowered in STEM, we see serious consequences not only for girls and women, but also for the future of innovation in our country,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council.  “If we want women at the forefront of the next generation of STEM leaders, we must show young girls that it is possible.  This empowering creative, and our extraordinary coalition of partners, will have a significant and long-lasting impact on girls, women and society.”

"We’re committed to building a workforce as diverse as the people and communities we serve, and STEM is a big part of that,” added Lauren Frasca, Creative Strategist at Facebook Creative Shop.  “If we want to see more women in STEM careers, we need more girls to study the subjects.  Encouraging young women to engage with STEM is not only the right thing, but research shows that gender diversity in these fields leads to more innovation, more creativity and more discourse; which in turn, leads to better STEM."

One of the main reasons girls stop pursuing their STEM interests is they don’t see women in STEM.  To help motivate and inspire them, the “She Can STEM” campaign, created by McCann, features seven successful women in STEM careers, including Lisa Seacat DeLuca, Distinguished Engineer at IBM; Tiera Fletcher, Structural Analysis Engineer at Boeing; Maya Gupta, Research Scientist at Google; Danielle Merfeld, Chief Technology Officer at GE Renewable Energy; Nicki Palmer, Chief Network Engineering Officer at Verizon; Bonnie Ross, Head of Microsoft Halo Game Studio, and Lucianne Walkowicz, Astronomer at the Adler Planetarium.  The campaign will appear in TV, print, digital and out-of-home.

“Microsoft is proud to support the 'She Can STEM' campaign because we believe it’s incredibly important to keep girls interested in pursuing education and careers in STEM,” said Kathleen Hall, Corporate Vice President – Brand, Advertising and Research at Microsoft.  “This campaign highlights some of the super-talented women in STEM today, and hopefully inspires young girls to follow in their footsteps.”

For its part, the Ad Council aims to show girls that if “she can STEM, so can you.”  Bringing the message closer to home, seven female digital influencers will share their own content related to the campaign with their more than two million Instagram followers combined.  Given that studies show that Gen Z has a short attention span, is less likely to pay attention to traditional advertising than social media and is more likely to interact with content from influencers and brands they follow, this influencer strategy should prove promising.

The participating digital stars include Karina “Slime Queen” Garcia, a 24-year-old Mexican American YouTube phenom with more than eight million subscribers who tune in daily to watch her make and play with slime.  Then there’s Olivia Rodrigo, who stars as an internet celebrity on Disney’s Bizaardvark and has nearly one million Instagram followers.  Sixteen-year-old Alyssa Carson, an astronaut-in-training, has more than 60,000 followers on Instagram, and became certified to go to space in 2016.  Other digital influencers creating their own content for the campaign include Mari Takahashi from Smosh Games, the GEM Sisters, Tessa Netting, Sara Dietschy and Kamri Noel.  Their involvement can help young girls see STEM in a modern-day light, instead of the outdated stereotype of an old white guy wearing broken glasses and a plastic pocket protector.

Further tapping into the power of influencer and social media’s high engagement with Gen Z, MTV, through a partnership with Facebook Anthology, will feature a video series on IGTV where a celebrity host will visit diverse STEM women at work.  Branded content has also proven successful with this demographic, which means STEM-related content created by Disney-backed storytelling platform Playbuzz should go over well.  In a recent study, Nielsen found that the platform’s content generated an average brand lift of 91 percent, performing in the top 10 percent globally of all digital brand effect campaigns.

In addition, the McCann creative and other STEM-related content encouraging girls to get involved and stay in STEM will live on Instagram @shecanSTEM and SheCanSTEM.com.  Brand partners GE, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Verizon will show further support with women who work at their companies by posting pictures of their younger selves with the tagline, “If she can STEM, so can you,” highlighting their STEM stories and asking other women to share theirs.

Each company supporting “She Can STEM” has developed their own initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion.  For instance, Diego Scotti, Chief Marketing Officer of Verizon (and an honoree at the forthcoming Advancing Diversity Honors being held in January during CES) notes that Verizon also supports diversity and inclusion with Adfellows, an eight-month program where college graduates are rotated in various marketing roles within Verizon and at some of its partner agencies.

"Helping girls thrive and ascend is a business imperative -- and a personal mission," said Tara Levy, Vice President of Agency and Brand Solutions at Google.  "It's no longer just traditional tech industries whose future is STEM; all industries are now tech industries -- manufacturing, telecom, healthcare, automotive, just to name a few.  Providing a platform for girls to get excited about technology means that they will be better able to access those opportunities across industries.

"And for Google, in order to build products for everyone, we need to have products that are built by everyone," she continued.  "While we are making progress in bringing more diverse talent into our organization, we recognize we still have a way to go to achieve that objective, and girls in STEM is one important part in getting to that goal."

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