Path to the Board Room Must Begin Early

Susan Hall
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20 Hottest IT Skills

These are the most in-demand skills over the last year, according to Dice.com.

A study reported Saturday in The New York Times reiterates what we already knew: There's a real dearth of women executives and board members among Silicon Valley's tech giants. And the problem extends into the engineering ranks as well.


The annual Study of California Women Business Leaders by the University of California-Davis and the Bay Area organization Watermark found software and semiconductors lagging other sectors in the percentage of women among the highest-paid executives.


Among the tech companies with no women directors were Adobe Systems, Demand Media, LeapFrog, Nvidia and National Semiconductor. Apple, Electronic Arts, Qualcomm and Tesla Motors were among the companies with no women among their highest-paid executives.


That story goes on to lament that companies fail to create a pipeline of talent for women to reach those top positions. Meanwhile, a recent survey sponsored by Intel shows the need to create that pipeline early. In a study of more than 1,000 teens, if found that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) had never considered a career in engineering. So much for President Obama's plans to train 10,000 new engineers a year. But once the teens learned more about what engineers do - and that they make an average yearly income of $75,000 - half the students said they were more likely to consider it. In this case, it seems, familiarity breeds - well, interest.


Then there's the issue the Times reported a while back about the high rate of defection from science majors once kids reach college. In a Huffington Post piece, James Gentile, president of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, writes that those introductory science classes at college should be more about engaging students rather than culling them. He advocates for undergraduate research on some timely or relevant topic to pique students' interest as a way to entice students.


Diane Bryant, Intel VP and CIO, writes at HuffPo:

One of the reasons we conducted this study is to try to get ahead of the game. Other research indicates there are university-level issues with engineering and science majors and a fairly high rate of these students either switching majors or not completing their degree at all. So a critical first step to graduate more engineers is actually nurturing an interest in the subject in high school, or earlier, so there is a healthy pool of engineering students poised to graduate

So how can we help our teens today? Help them understand all the possibilities that engineering holds. They may not know it but it may just interest them and help keep the U.S. as the most innovative country in the world.

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