For centuries, science, technology, engineering, and math have been dominated by males. While we’re in an era where women are rapidly entering male-dominated fields, we still have a good way to go in terms of representation and diversity. According to a study by CommercialCafe, a leading commercial real estate information services provider, Plano is the ninth top city in the southern region for women in STEM. Although things may not be where they need to be, this is a sign of good things to come.
Several factors went into the survey, including data on the median incomes of female STEM employees, average local rents to the female STEM workers’ median incomes and the change in each city’s female STEM workers’ median earnings during the previous five years. Additionally, the survey also considered factors such as the local share of women in management positions across all occupations, the percentage of women who have healthcare through their employer, and the local unemployment rate for women.
CommercialCafe’s survey found that female STEM workers in Plano make the highest median income, over $87,000 annually, of all women in STEM in the southern region. About 13% of jobs in Plano are within the realm of STEM and 22% of those jobs are held by women.
Plano resident Bari Eichelbaum, who works as a nurse practitioner in primary care, says she believes that women are gaining ground in STEM largely thanks to the many educational opportunities available in Plano.
“As a graduate of PISD schools and a former participant in their STEM programs, I believe women in Plano have incredible opportunities to pursue career goals in any field they choose,” Eichelbaum says. “Being set up for success at a young age gave me the courage to be in the career I’m in. Young girls in Plano have been told that they can be anything, and that hasn’t changed in my lifetime. And it won’t.”
Although Eichelbaum believes that there are great STEM opportunities in Plano for women, she adds that she has experienced what could be considered sexist comments while working in STEM. In fact, more than 50% of women in STEM have experienced some form of sexism on the job, according to a study by Pew Research Center.
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“I have possibly faced misogyny when I get comments constantly about how young I am, and therefore look,” Eichelbaum says. “I don’t think a male would ever get such comments because it implies that I can’t possibly know what I’m doing.”
In order to continue to improve the landscape for women in engineering, women are taking action in order to support girls and women in male-dominated fields.
As a business owner, Mess Wright, founder of WorkChops Fab Lab, has created an environment where children are encouraged to pursue their dreams and goals, regardless of gender.
“I have this luxury of controlling this environment,” Wright says, “so I’ve focused on how to keep our little piece of the world sane and safe; that could be why we attract so many female children.”
Since first launching WorkChops, Wright has noticed an increase in the number of young girls who want to pursue STEM. She says their interest in STEM gives her hope for the future.
“I have always made it a point to have as many females on staff of my business as possible,” Wright says. “I have to tell you that when I opened the doors to my first lab ten years ago, there was less inquiry into our STEM programs by parents of girls. In fact, I actually had people call several times in 2010 and 2011 and ask me, ‘Do you have anything for girls?’ I would reply, ‘Yes. We have science for girls.’ That never happens anymore, and I’d say most of our science and tech camps are split about 50/50 by gender.”
The original WorkChops lab was based in Deep Ellum, however, Wright is in the process of moving the lab to Richardson. During this process, Wright has noticed that she is surrounded by many like-minded individuals.
“The first thing I noticed, as an outsider, is the number of employers with STEM jobs,” Wright says. “I found that really encouraging. Most of the female engineers and coders I know live and work there. That’s pretty anecdotal, but my perception is that Plano is STEM-friendly and female-friendly.”