STEM represents the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In most education systems, the focus has been on each subject individually. STEM education integrates the noted subjects into a blended learning environment. The students learn critical thinking, how to problem solve, and how to apply the methods taught to everyday life.
STEM fields are essential to economic growth. According to Whitehouse Archives, economic projections indicate that by 2018, there could be 2.4 million unfulfilled STEM jobs in the United States alone. The report goes on to note the STEM employment gap is further compounded by persistent diversity challenges, as women and minorities, who comprise 70% of college students but less than 45% of STEM degrees, represent a largely untapped talent pool.
The issue is not unique to the United States, it’s a global issue. According to the Royal Academy of Engineering, the British need to graduate 100K STEM majors every year until 2020 to meet current demand. Germany has a shortage of 210K workers in the fields of mathematics, computer science, natural science, and technology disciplines.
Without enough talented professionals in STEM, the development of many of the benefits of modern life we have either come to enjoy (such as smartphones), or hope will come about (such as curing diseases), will slow, because there will be funded positions that don’t find qualified candidates. Aviation has a similar problem, with a too-small young pilot pool to staff our needs in the near future. Women entering aviation can single-handedly reverse this trend, because the number of women in the aviation field today is staggeringly low. One of the reasons – according to the Teaching Women to Fly Research Project – is that “Girls need to see living aviation female role models.”
The Dreams Soar mission is to motivate and inspire the next generation of STEM and aviation professionals. The organization’s focus is primarily on women and girls, using aviation both because it has a direct need, but also because aviation is metaphorical, exciting, and inspiring to consider all sorts of STEM careers.
Women are historically underrepresented in STEM careers and it isn’t due to lack of performance. The University of Michigan and University of Pittsburgh tracked approximately 1,500 college-bound students over a decade and found that women had the highest scores on both the math and the verbal portion of the SAT test (compared to their male counterparts). Even though they excelled in these fields, these women were still more likely to pursue non-STEM careers after graduation. Why? There are many factors at play, one being people tend to gravitate towards careers that feel like a comfortable fit. As noted earlier, they look for “people like them”.
Shaesta Waiz will be embarking on a historic round the world solo flight to fill this need and demonstrate that women can succeed in anything they set out to do. The Dreams Soar team considers it a great responsibility to inspire future generations and this historic flight represents the first chapter of many to come.