GirlsForIoTInnovation sqIn October at the Internet of Things World Forum we announced the Young Women’s Innovation Grand Challenge.  This challenge was announced to help bring more women into the sciences as we connect more of the unconnected with the Internet of Things. I’m pleased to announce that the IoT World Forum Young Women’s Innovation Grand Challenge is now open for submissions!

This challenge came about as a way to help address one of the biggest challenges to the Internet of Things – the dearth of technologically trained workers.  Over the next few years, technology jobs –those requiring a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM), are expected to grow twice as fast as non-STEM jobs.  While the demand for this workforce is growing, women are a significantly under-utilized resource.  In the United States, a little over 18% of computer science and engineering degrees are awarded to women – while in general more women are getting bachelor’s degrees, the number of women in STEM has declined over the last 20 years from highs of 20.9% for engineering in 2002 and 29% for computer science in 1991.

The reasons and causes for the low participation of women in STEM fields are varied.  Many of them start during early middle school years due to misperceptions and the need to fit in or be cool.

We can help change this trend.   There are many opportunities to foster young women’s interest in science and there are many groups working to address this issue.   At the inaugural Internet of Things World Forum in 2013 participation of women was low, demonstrating the extent of the challenge and driving us to action.  We hope that the Internet of Things with it great promise, can become another way to engage young women and help fix it.

The Internet of Things is making amazing things happen by connecting the unconnected and provides an new way to bring more fun with and exposure to STEM beyond a high school math or science class might.  From smart watches and thermostats on the consumer side to smart cranes & trains on the business side, there are many real-world examples where Internet of Things makes a positive and measurable improvement to societies and individuals – see the hundreds of examples we showcased at the IoT World Forum.  Now we hope that the young women who take the challenge learn about some of these examples and think of innovative ones of their own.

Our goal with this challenge is to have high school young women thinking of the types of solutions that startups and businesses think through – a concrete way to apply the science they’re learning about as well as creativity and see firsthand how technology can be fun.  From my own experiences in mentoring high school students, a great way to nurture an interest in STEM is involvement in an extracurricular projects and inspire their imagination.  While 28% of high school freshmen express an interest in studying STEM, only 21% of seniors do.  We’re hoping that this challenge will be used as a new, fun way to engage high school students to think through the Internet of Things and the impact they could have in STEM and to continue their education in that path.

The Challenge itself is based on identifying a problem you see solve with the use of Internet of Things technologies, and suggest a feasible solution?  The first round of submissions is due by March 25th, finalists will be notified April 20th and 10 winners will be announced at the end of May 2015. Hopefully young women who take this challenge will be interested in studying STEM further in college – and contribute long term as we enter the age of the Internet of Things.

Please help us propagate this message to as many schools and young women as you can.

If you’re interested in learning more about the challenge, please visit the IoT World Forum Young Women’s Innovation Grand Challenge website!

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Inbar Lasser-Raab

No Longer with Cisco