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By Kyndryl Staff

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a landmark U.S. civil rights law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in any education program that receives funding from the U.S. government.

Title IX is most often credited for its impact on athletics. Without it, Mia Hamm, Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky may never have become household names, inspiring generations of women to have confidence in their own potential. Perhaps lesser known is that the law also requires educational institutions receiving federal funding to provide equal opportunities for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, regardless of gender.

Since the passing of Title IX in 1972, numerous programs have been launched with the hope of equal representation in STEM education and employment. Yet, while women comprise 48% of the total workforce, only 27% of STEM workers are women.1

So, why are education systems—and employers for that matter—failing to create equal representation for women in STEM?

Some cite external factors2, such as a lack of role models, male-dominated cultures, and derogatory stereotypes about women’s aptitude in traditionally male-dominated fields.  Others suggest 3female students still may lack confidence and a sense of belonging in STEM subjects. At the very least, companies can do more to promote welcoming work environments by providing pay equity, flexibility and strong family and medical leave policies.4 “One of the challenges that I faced earlier in my career is trying to balance this desire to really progress as a technical leader, but then also attend to my family and my children,” says Kitty Smith, a Distinguished Engineer and Enterprise Architect at Kyndryl. “I think that’s a real difficulty that we need to be able to overcome.”

Inclusion and anti-bias training

Smith recommends companies structure their organizations in a way that helps facilitate more work-life balance to advance more women in their technical roles. Taking it a step further, companies that are dedicated to actively reducing gender disparity within their organizations should provide inclusion and anti-bias training, mentorship, networking opportunities, and strong anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.

While critical work remains to close the gender gap before Title IX reaches another milestone age, let’s not overlook progress. Today, women represent 45% of students majoring in STEM fields up from 40% in 2010 and 34% in 19945. And women are continuing to find new ways to enter the STEM workforce. “It’s interesting that in design in tech, the women’s numbers are more like 50%,” says Sarah Nelson, Global Design Leader at Kyndryl. “Design is another entry path for women into tech that I think sometimes people don’t think about.”

Hear more on The Progress Report

Nelson and Smith were part of a panel of fellow Kyndryl female leaders who came together to discuss the importance of showing up authentically in technical roles, bringing more women into STEM, and more. Click below to hear their conversation.

1  Women Making Gains in STEM Occupations but Still Underrepresented, United States Census Bureau, 2021
2 The STEM Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, American Association of University of Women (AAUW), 2010
3 The State of Women and STEM, National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP), 2022
4 Closing the STEM Gap, American Association of University of Women (AAUW)
5  Women Achieve Gains In STEM Fields, Forbes, 2022