Dr. Pam Taub, general cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego, who discovered that dark chocolate has a compound that can improve the mitochondrial structure and exercise capacity in patients with heart failure and diabetes.

Dr. Olgica Bakajin, who earned her Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University, is CEO of Porifera, Inc., a water purification firm using forward osmosis technology.

Lauren Williams, the first tenured female mathematician at Harvard in nearly a decade. 

These are some of the unstoppable women that our scrappy nonprofit, the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE), has helped to nurture to careers of excellence and leadership in science, technology, engineering, math and business. For the past 35 years, I have worked with thousands of high-achieving young scholars from all backgrounds, demographics and income classes who have contributed enormously to the United States, and over 40 percent of these students have been women. We have admitted students into our programs purely based on merit, and frankly, I’m not surprised to see that when we look purely at talent, women are as capable as men when it comes to STEM. 

CEE has not only guided record numbers of women in STEM into careers in the U.S., but I have negotiated agreements to make sure women have equal access to STEM education globally, as well. For example, our marquee program, the Research Science Institute, was the first to bring STEM education studies to girls in Saudi Arabia.

CEE has not only guided record numbers of women in STEM into careers in the U.S., but I have negotiated agreements to make sure women have equal access to STEM education globally, as well.

Over the decades, CEE has developed a formula that not only brings young girls into STEM programs at the high school and collegiate levels, but assures that they remain in these fields.  

What’s our secret? Our very strong alumni network. Through CEE, we’ve made sure everyone that goes through our programs stays in touch, and many STEM career opportunities become available through connections made possible by our alumni network. Once a student – especially a woman student – completes our program, we do everything we can to make sure they come back to serve as professors, mentors, counselors and tutors, and encourage them to stay in close contact with the incredible network of CEE. This way, as they seek career opportunities, they are surrounded by incredible peers, many of them women, who have made inroads into many STEM industries. 

According to data from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), 26 percent of professional computing jobs in 2016 in the U.S. workforce were held by women; 20 percent of the Fortune 100 chief information officer (CIO) positions were held by women, and 23 percent of Advanced Placement (AP) computer science test takers were female. Also, “though computer science jobs are projected to grow 15-20 percent through 2020, most of these positions will be pursued and filled by men, according to Women in Computer Science (WiCS).”

The glass is half full, as I like to say – we’ve made strides in gender equality in STEM– but there is still much to do. I am so proud of the career of Lauren Williams, an RSI alum, but why has it taken a decade to have a woman mathematician at Harvard with tenure?

About The Author – Joann DiGennaro, CEE President

Joann DiGennaro established the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) with the late Admiral H.G. Rickover in 1983 to nurture high school and university scholars to careers of excellence and leadership in science and technology, and to promote collaboration among future scientific and technological leaders in the global community. The not for profit, 501(c)(3) organization is based in McLean, Virginia. In June of 2012, Joann was named as one of 100 U.S. Women Leaders in STEM by U.S. News and STEMconnector for having made significant contributions to science and technology. Over the last 30 years, she has advanced STEM education both nationally and internationally.

Lead image courtesy of the Center for Excellence in Education. Photo By Greg M. Cooper