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Cultivating the Next Generation of Women in STEM

Sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb

Just under half of all workers in the United States are female. So why is it that women comprise only 24 percent of professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)?

There is no single answer to this question. Persistent gender stereotypes, beginning at early ages, may discourage girls from focusing on these subjects in school. A lack of female role models can make it difficult for young women to see themselves in STEM careers. And even after attaining a STEM degree, women earn less than men in similar jobs.

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Network of Women (B-NOW), an employee resource group with more than 4,600 members worldwide, aims to help address these disparities by encouraging the development of women and girls in STEM. The organization’s volunteers—women who have excelled in their own STEM careers—will reach an estimated 400 students this year through the “Tomorrow’s Innovators” initiative.

“Without the right guidance and support, entering the world of STEM can be an isolating experience for women,” said Litao Zhang, vice president of leads discovery and optimization for Bristol-Myers Squibb. “I was fortunate to find mentors at different points during my education and career, who helped me to navigate this exciting, challenging and innovative field. Through ‘Tomorrow’s Innovators,’ I can share those learnings with the next generation of STEM leaders.”

This fall, “Tomorrow’s Innovators” kicked off its sixth year. The program engages children and young women in middle school, high school and college, reaching students at pivotal moments during their academic journeys.

In the middle school setting, Bristol-Myers Squibb employees collaborate with local 4-H chapters to spark an interest in science among fourth- through seventh-graders. Volunteers dedicate their time once a month from October until the following March to carry out science experiments with students. At the end of the program, the participants present their projects to family and friends at a science fair.

“I can use science in real life,” said one “Tomorrow’s Innovators” student. “My grade went from a 78 to 98!”

“Tomorrow’s Innovators” also supports young women who are nearing career decisions. The program recently expanded to include a partnership with Douglass College that pairs STEM students with Bristol-Myers Squibb mentors to give them exposure to their chosen fields.

Through continued interaction with their mentors, students not only begin to build their professional networks, but also have the opportunity to experience aspects of their future careers that go beyond what they learn in the classroom. For Bristol-Myers Squibb, the program helps forge connections with the bright and diverse talent at Douglass College.

“We know from study after study that gender diversity is good for business, and yet we still see profound gaps between the number of men and women in STEM,” said Nicole Dinello, who leads B-NOW. “Within B-NOW and Bristol-Myers Squibb as a whole, we’re actively working to inspire women to begin STEM careers and provide the resources they need to continually grow in their fields.”

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