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June 1, 2016updated 22 Sep 2016 12:08pm

What is STEM

STEM is fast becoming a business buzzword - CBR looks at the origins of the acronym and what it means for businesses today.

By Ellie Burns

STEM is the acronym referring to the academic principles of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The term is most widely used in education, as well as having increasing prominence in workforce development and equality.

The acronym was first used after a meeting on science education held at the US National Science Foundation (NSF), when Dr Peter Faletra suggested a change from the old acronym SMET (Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology) to STEM.

NSF director Rita Colwell, after expressing dislike for the older acronym, suggested that the NSF make the change to STEM. The first NSF project to use the new acronym was a 1997 initiative at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

In business, STEM is most commonly used in research, initiatives and by organisations looking at gender equality in the workforce. UK organisations such as the Stemettes and WISE actively lobby for more women to be schooled and hired in the STEM fields, using research to highlight the inequality of today’s workforce and the perception of STEM among parents and children.

what is STEM

For example, research from Accenture found that 60% of 12-year-old-girls in the UK and Ireland believe that STEM subjects are too hard to learn, with 51% of teachers and 42% of parents believing that STEM subjects are for boys only.

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Further research from WISE found that women make up 14.4% of the UK STEM workforce, with women working in ICT only making up 17.5% of the total workforce in that sector. It is due to these consistently low numbers as to why STEM is so prevalent in professional news, articles and research.

Commenting on STEM as one of the key issues facing UK businesses, Regina Moran, CEO of Fujitsu UK&I, told CBR: "As the leader of a major corporate, the change that I would love to see in UK tech is greater coordination on the key issues that we are facing – digital skills and diversity.

"We are facing a chronic STEM skills shortage in the UK, which is set to worsen as digital grows in all sectors. The tech industry is also continuing to fail on diversity, which means that businesses will struggle to reflect and serve the needs of their diverse consumer base. Stakeholders throughout technology need to work together on initiatives to address both of these issues, and avoid focusing only on addressing their own recruitment needs."

what is STEM

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