Wake Tech collaboration aims to increase minority women in STEM careers

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- There are relatively few minority women working in the STEM field

Research at Wake Tech reveals a gap in both representation' and wages in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields.

Sarah Mason's expectation as a minority and a woman is that she has to work twice as hard to be equal to her White counterparts.

Her plan?

"To strive. To be the best. To work harder. To learn more," Mason, a Wake Tech student, said.

She's conditioned to expect less money for it, too.

"My expectation isn't equal pay," Mason said. "It's something I'm hopeful for, but it's not an expectation of mine."

The 42-year-old put her education on hold to raise three children.

Now, she is majoring in network management at Wake Tech.

With graduation just months away, she has her sights set on one day becoming a network engineer.

But there's one challenge.

"I don't have the knowledge going into a position knowing what my male counterparts are getting. Knowing what credentials they have," Mason said. "It does take someone in a position with the knowledge and that information to do something about it and make a change."

Dr. Kasey Ashton, the director of Wake Invests in Women, is working to make that happen.

"Women are significantly underrepresented in those fields," Ashton said. "While women make up about 50% of the workforce in Wake County, in STEM, we're only looking at 36 percent."

Wake Invests in Women is a collaboration between Wake County and Wake Tech Community College designed to close the wage gap countywide for Black and Hispanic women, specifically in the STEM careers.

Its mission includes strengthening the pipeline and creating pathways for more women to enter the industry.

The effort also challenges STEM-related employers in the Triangle to increase representation by identifying disparities at their companies and doing something about it.

"The companies will be able to say yes, we have seen an increase in the number of applications from women and women of color," Ashton said. "We have been successful in recruiting, retaining women and advancing women."

One of the four companies that have signed on so far is Cree Wolfspeed.

"More diversity at the table helps to drive better innovation, faster innovation. More creativity," said Tamara Pearce, of Cree Wolfspeed. "It helps the bottom line. We see the numbers where the statistics are 25% increase in sales and revenue when you have more diversity."

Through this initiative, students such as Mason will have the skills and an opportunity to climb the career ladder in STEM industries - and be compensated fairly for it, too.
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