Opinion by Thought Leaders
Read the latest opinions from tech & business pros across the globe.

Why STEM is Important for Every Girl

 

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. This core set of so-called "21st-century skills" form the tools students will need to have if they want to succeed in the workplace of the future. In this ever-changing, increasingly complex world, it's more critical than ever that the youth of our country are prepared to bring knowledge and skills to solve problems of all kinds, make sense of information, know how to gather and evaluate evidence, and be able to use that evidence to make critical decisions.   STEM ensures a nation where our future leaders, neighbors, and workers know how to understand and solve some of the most complex challenges of today and tomorrow, as they continue to meet the demands of a dynamic and evolving workforce. The U. S. Department of Commerce states that STEM occupations are growing at a rate of 17 percent, while other occupations are growing closer to nine percent. STEM degree holders tend to have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. Students and workers skilled in STEM play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of this country's economy, and remain a vital part of helping the United States win the future.   In short, STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and fuels the next generation of innovators.

Why STEM is Important for Both Sexes

STEM education is inherently designed to prepare both girls and boys for a future where most jobs will require a basic understanding of math and science, and where advanced skills will be critical. Children of both sexes will be needed in order to use the technology that powers the world. 

STEM is important for both boys and girls for these reasons:

  • Preparation of future jobs
  • Break down gender barriers
  • Tackle pressing issues such as climate change
  • Build confidence
  • Develop valuable life skills
  • Challenge boundaries
  • Invest in the future

Why STEM is Especially Important for Girls

STEM careers have a stigma as male-dominated fields. Yet for the first time in history, girls are exceeding their male classmates in both science and math. They are showing an even greater aptitude for the STEM classes, challenging that very stigma every single day. Girls who major in STEM go on to become CEOs of companies, leaders of industry and respected professionals -- no longer titles reserved just for men.

Diversity in the STEM work force has come a long way. As our country has rapidly transformed into an information-based economy, employment in STEM occupations has grown – indeed outpacing overall job growth. Since 1990, STEM employment has grown 79 percent and computer jobs have seen a 338 percent increase during the same period, according to Pew Research Center.

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Is Life Better With Or Without Technology?

 

Technology Dominates Modern Day Life, But Is It Good or Bad?


As a Gen X’er (those born between 1965 and 1980), I grew up alongside technology. However, life in the 80s and even the 90s was much different than it is now, and my childhood didn’t feel like it was dominated by all things electronic. We didn’t have cell phones, Google, or social media when we were young (much to the shock and horror of my kids). I didn’t spend the majority of my youth staring at a screen. I wouldn’t have grown up in any other decades, although that is all I know. Many people argue that we had it better than kids do now, but did we?

Communication and Entertainment - From Street Lights to Cell Phones

Growing up, I spent most of my time playing outside with my friends. I have so many fond memories of running around outside for hours, exploring and going from friend’s house to friend’s house until it got dark. When the street lights came on at dusk, that was my signal that it was time to head home. My mom also had a giant bell that she would ring, and we would hear it from a distance and know that it was dinner time.

In elementary school and junior high, my friends and I passed notes back and forth to chat, and we knew about 1,000 different ways to fold a piece of paper. My friends and I would often mail letters to one another despite living just down the street and having the ability to walk to each other's houses. I still have all of my notes and letters from childhood saved in a box, and it is quite a large collection.

We used landline phones with super long curly cords to call family and friends, and long phone calls were common and plentiful. One of our home phones was a rotary phone, and I still remember hating when someone had a 9 in their phone number, as that number took the longest to dial. When we were out and about, we carried around quarters for payphones, which we used to call our parents and tell them when it was time to pick us up from the mall. When I got to high school pagers (aka “beepers”) were popular, and it felt exciting to be able to communicate on-the-go.

During my youth music was mostly played via the radio or cassette players, but we also occasionally pulled out the record player. We spent hours waiting by our boomboxes, waiting to hear our favorite song on the radio, and when it came on we would quickly press record to try to tape the whole song on our cassette tapes without missing a beat. We used portable Walkmans to listen to our taped playlists. In the early 90s, audio CDs replaced cassette tapes, and cassette tapes basically became extinct.

MP3s, or digitally-compressed music files, brought about a new level of accessibility to music in the late 90s. However, it was still tricky to grab music off of the internet, until Napster came along. Napster was a software that enabled people to download their favorite songs from other users, who had retrieved them from ripped CDs, often breaking copyright laws. The software peaked from late 2000 to early 2001 until it declined in the early 2000s due to lawsuits from musicians and music companies. The Apple iPod, a portable media player that was released in late 2001, was designed by Steve Jobs and revolutionized how we listened to music. Apple came through once again in 2003 when it introduced a new way to download music with the iTunes Music Store, which offered millions of songs for only 99 cents apiece. Now we have a plethora of ways to download inexpensive or even free music online using iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Pandora, etc.

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Women in Tech - Successes and Challenges

 

Digital Transformation represents a paradigm shift that is revolutionising almost every field. We have to be aware and prepared for these forthcoming changes in order to innovatively manage operations and gain benefits.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the advancement of Emerging Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Blockchain and so on. These big shifts and innovations in tech field are driving the digital workforce transformation. Several forces are changing the nature of work, such as the demand for digital skills and the emergence of new work models. It should be emphasized that, despite what many people can think, technology is going to act as an integrator and not as a replacement for skills needed: although machines will gradually become more powerful, humans will actually be even more essential.

About that, it’s important to analyze how women are involved in building the future of work. In fact, while the world of work is changing rapidly, advancements in workplace gender equality have progressed at a glacial pace. Women In Tech continue to be underrepresented and the World Economic Forum suggests that it will take 200 years to achieve workplace gender equality. It’s unfortunately true that tech is still a male-dominated world, since realities like the gender wage gap and the gender leadership gap lead to a lot of implicit bias.

The image here shows the results of a survey by Ivanti over 500 women working in technology across the globe.

As you’ll notice, being a woman in tech implies many successes. Some of the best things are: making a positive impact in organization/industry and doing a job that is never boring. But, as with any good thing, there are also many challenges involved. Among the biggest challenges emerged from the survey: being taken seriously due to gender perceptions (63% of WIT), having no female role models and gender pay gap.

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Why Women in Tech are Building a Better Tomorrow

 

More and more women are pursuing educations and careers in the STEM fields, and that is a good thing. Indeed, women in tech are building a better tomorrow, and we're going to go into why in a little bit. First, a few statistics.

A Look at the Numbers

Here are some interesting stats about women in the tech workforce, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology:

  • 57% of professional occupations in the 2018 U.S. workforce were held by women.
  • 26% of professional computing occupations in 2018 were held by women.
  • 20% of Fortune 500 CIO positions were held by women in 2018.
  • 3.5 million U.S. computing-related job openings are expected by 2026.
  • 49% of 2018 Intel Science and Engineering Fair finalists were female.

Most stats look promising, but some are actually moving backwards. For example, in 1985, 37% of computer science bachelor's degree recipients were women, compared with just 19% in 2017.

Why is this? According to a study in Entrepreneur, researchers say one reason women choose to not pursue computer science degrees is because they buy into the stereotypes about the types of people who work in the STEM field and can't picture themselves fitting into that framework.

As an aside, women should be treated like any other teammate, championing each other and giving credence to their expertise. A recent study in the Economist found that women's voices are judged more harshly than that of men. This is one barrier of many that discourages women from entering tech-heavy industries.

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Ecommerce and Mobile Platforms

 

An innovation is an idea, practice or object that has taken root in society and is perceived to be new or created a new adoption of a concept or technology. Innovations have many parameters when becoming part of a social system, especially with the onslaught of so many new different technologies that are being created on a daily basis. One particular innovation that has made a particular successful diffusion into society is the mobile telephone or smart phone. The mobile phone has been a technology that has had a large number of early adopters and become an integral part of the communication channels that individuals use to participate in daily conversation. Innovations have certain conditions that are important to becoming successful: relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability.

One particular group of individuals has taken on the innovation of the mobile phone more efficiently than any other group, tech-savvy young people. Millennials are the largest generational users of mobile telephones and are harnessing some serious spending power. They are embracing online shopping on their mobile telephones and setting a trend in forcing technology makers to figure out how to build the relationship even further between ecommerce platforms and potential shoppers. For the millennial generation the mobile platform is the method of choice for interacting with technology. Furthermore, they are more interested in harnessing the power and control while using these platforms during shopping activities. Technology innovators and business leaders must answer this call to address the rise of mobile ecommerce use. The question is not whether or not this will become the future of shopping but when will it take over all traditional methods of shopping.

Users are accessing the web more and more on a mobile device or tablet rather than a desktop with the intent of shopping and making ecommerce purchases. Statically, during the holiday shopping season this year a third of all shopping was done via a mobile device. Furthermore, 84% stated that they have experienced a bad mobile transaction experience will trying to make an online purchase. With that type of high percentage of bad transactions, there is the opportunity to create more positive mobile responsive websites that will be more user friendly.

Improving mobile responsive websites to be more user friendly can be as easy as making a few improvements. Making sure the website is programmed to be adaptive can provide the best user experience for every user on every single device. Making sure that all buttons on the website are tap-friendly and are the correct size for any important call to actions or links. The main navigation is the most important part of the menu so that the items are easy to read and to utilize for the consumer on their phone. Part of making the menu accessible is to use text for contact information so that users are able to tap and contact the company easily. Furthermore, the visual content on a mobile website needs to be adapted so it gives visual ques and intertwines words. Having lengthy paragraphs on mobile sites is not user friendly and will drive users away because it is hard to view on a mobile telephone. 89% of executives feel that the user experience will be their primary factor to competition. A user-centric and user-friendly website is becoming the priority for getting a competitive edge and advantage.

The innovation of the mobile telephone has become so much more than just a communication device, but has been adopted into society, especially by millennials, to become a small computer that aids people in many types of transactions. Utilizing this trend, business leaders should use big data and predictive analysis to increase productivity in their businesses. Getting on board with mobile is the wave of the future and will increase sales capabilities when utilized properly.

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CIO value proposition: Negotiating key IT vendor contracts

 

While it's important for CIOs to provide a strategic advantage and to work on creating a partnership mentality, one area that needs to be smartly managed are those cumbersome and expensive vendor contracts.

We've talked about how CIOs can bring value to the organization through flexibility, business capability, strategic advantage and the development of a partnership mentality. Companies nowadays are measuring the value of their IT departments and their services, comparing their company's technology and capability to others' technology acumen and agility. Are they creating benchmarks as a result of those outcomes? While it's important for CIOs to provide a strategic advantage and to work on creating a partnership mentality, one area that needs to be smartly managed are those cumbersome and expensive vendor contracts.

Before you negotiate a key vendor contract, you need to have developed the right vendor management strategy; failure to do so can result in a dysfunctional relationship that can negatively impact your business, according to The Balance. While you need to be prepared to play hardball, you must also value your vendor and build a strategic partnership that is mutually beneficial for both parties. Although you want to be the hero and negotiate a rate that boosts the company's bottom line, you don't want to go too far and turn your vendor off. And you REALLY don't want to cut corners on service, which can hurt your business and cause an eventual breakdown of the relationship.

So, how can you negotiate key IT vendor agreements so as to benefit your company as well as preserve the vendor relationship?

Recognizing the value

In terms of IT buyers, strategic partners are vendors that have not only provided effective delivery of systems and services, they have gone one step further to become transparent, responsive and trusted collaborators for generating value for the enterprise -- consistently. Vendors who fail to achieve this competitive advantage will only have price to fall back on, bringing them too far down the competitive ladder. The "mutual win" can be put at risk if the most strategic vendor relationships are not pursued strongly.

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