SAN FRANCISCO, June 14, 2021 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — Before the pandemic hit in March 2020, women were the majority of the U.S. workforce. Then COVID came and took 1.8 million jobs away from women—and a large portion of them are finding it difficult to return to work.(1) Economists have not been able to pinpoint a single, specific factor why women are not returning to work, but despite the recent economic boost, millions of women are still unemployed.(1) Additionally, even though women earn more college degrees than men—undergraduate and postgraduate(2)—women are still underrepresented in the important fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“We have to do a better job in closing the gap and showing that STEM can be for everybody,” explains Caitlin Kalinowski, award-winning product engineer, regarding women, queer people, and minorities in the STEM field. Caitlin believes there needs to be a sense of normalcy for minorities working these positions and the time is now for that change to occur.
Fast Company Queer 50 Award
It’s more important than ever to highlight queer trailblazers and advocates, Kalinowski says.(3) Fast Company put together a list of 50 leaders in the LGBTQ+ and non-binary communities who are pioneers in the fields of finance, tech, entertainment, venture capital, and media. The selection process partnered with Lesbians Who Tech & Allies to pull together some of the world’s finest women in the STEM arena who are leading the way toward positive change.
“It’s wonderful to have a list that mixes all facets and highlights queer women, [elevating] tech and business,” Kalinowski says of the Fast Company list. “I didn’t expect to receive [the award] again and it’s humbling to be listed among such an incredible group of people.” Kalinowski was listed no. 18 on the 2021 list.
The Queer 50 List, in its second year, will hold the award ceremony in June, during Pride Month. However, Kalinowski states it is crucial for women, minorities, and under-represented communities to continue to be a focus year-round.
This focus must begin in the classroom, Kalinowski adds.
Decline of American Education
An educational environment is often where up-and-coming scientists, engineers, and mathematicians grow their passions. However, it can be difficult to follow that passion when there is lack of support or lack of role-models available—especially queer and minority role-models. Though the number of mentors advocating in educational settings are growing, it still isn’t where it needs to be.
An Oct. 30, 2019 report by the American College Testing Program (ACT) showed “a slight decline in college readiness is continuing in general, particularly longer-term downward trends in math and English.” The report went on to state how “the percentages of graduates meeting the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in math and English are the lowest they’ve been in 15 years.” ACT reported that from the 1.8 million ACT test-takers in 2019, a mere 26 percent reached the “college-ready” benchmarks in all four subjects tested. More disconcerting is that 36 percent of the test takers met none of them.(4)
“America is falling behind in the tech field. [It’s concerning] we need to have the ability to compete and win in this area,” Caitlin says. “We should be worried. We need to make significant investments and change the way we teach these fields.”
Queer Women and Minorities Need More Championing
Though many talented queer women in STEM received a Fast Company award for their achievements, the discussion should not end with this recognition—it should be where the discussion begins.
More women are actively advocating for equality and acknowledgement in hopes that today’s youth can walk toward their future with more confidence and education to back up their passion. This concern can grow into a stepping-stone for the next generation of STEM leaders if only the energy for change continues.
“This is a full-stack problem and will take a lot of effort to fix it,” Kalinowski says of the guidance up-and-coming STEM youth need. “Everyone has a role to play in closing the gap and leading the way for the next generation in STEM.”
About Caitlin Kalinowski
Caitlin Kalinowski earned her BS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2007, where she is a guest lecturer at Stanford’s School of Engineering and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. Currently, Caitlin is Head of Hardware for Oculus at Facebook Reality Labs’— her team’s projects include the Oculus Quest 2, Oculus Quest, Oculus Go, and Oculus Rift. Previously she was a technical lead for Mac Pro and MacBook Air products and was part of the original unibody MacBook Pro team. Caitlin has also been instrumental in her support for the arts in California and her work blazing paths to encourage girls to enter STEM. For more information visit https://caitlinkalinowski.com/
1. Hsu, Andrea; “Millions of Women Haven’t Rejoined the Workforce—And May not Anytime Soon—”; 4 June 2021; National Public Radio, npr.org/2021/06/03/1002402802/there-are-complex-forces-keeping-women-from-coming-back-to-work
2. Catalyst, “Quick Take: Women in the Workforce—United States”; 14 Oct 2020; catalyst.org/research/women-in-the-workforce-united-states/
3. Fast Company; “Fast Company Queer 50”; fastcompany.com/90471874/fast-company-queer-50-2020 | Accessed 07 June 2021
4. Finn Jr, Chester E; “The American K-12 Decline”; 7 Nov 2019; National Review; nationalreview.com/magazine/2019/11/25/the-american-k-12-decline/
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