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Microsoft Gets Real With Young Girls to Get Them to Stay in STEM

It’s a ground-up approach.

Kids dream. That’s what they do, until they start getting told not to dream anymore — I think that’s what’s called adulthood. But, nothing gets done without dreams, so us adults aren’t doing ourselves any favors by not encouraging kids to achieve. There’s no better example than girls and STEM.

Microsoft, like a lot of us, want girls to keep on dreaming tech dreams, but they’ve decided to do that with a reality check. Today, the company is launching the #MakeWhatsNext campaign to not just get young girls interested in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math), but keep them interested. The first part of that campaign is a video full of girls who want to help clean up the environment, cure breast cancer, save the world — the usual kid stuff.

Then, the hammer gets dropped — only 6.7 percent of women graduate with a degree in a STEM subject (the study, from BestColleges.com, found 17 percent of men graduated with a degree in STEM). That student gap precipitates the professional gap, with women only holding an estimated 25 percent of all STEM-related jobs (per the U.S. Department of Commerce). None of this is optimal for Microsoft, a big company that likes things to be optimal — with this country already facing a shortfall in qualified STEM graduates compared to projected job openings, one of the most obvious ways to catch up is to work on that gender gap.

Here’s hoping the campaign helps. The girls in the video get super bummed out over the stats, but rally back pretty quickly — adversity does build tenacity. To help get other girls on board, Microsoft is pushing out a new Career Explorer web app in conjunction with LinkedIn (putting their purchase to good use). The app is now part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark Hub, a long-running initiative to help kids from all over pursue careers in tech using workshops, events, and competitions. The new Career Explorer app helps girls identify their dreams, then teach them more about the tricky part — turning them into reality. LinkedIn provides the raw numbers of how badly each career needs STEM workers, and helps girls narrow down possible majors.

Oh, and it’s pretty fun to combine fields and see what you get. If there’s a future in being an astro-culinary artist, you’ve got to pursue it.