Watch the Video: Five Montana Women in STEM Fields

According to OPI, "STEM" is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and refers to the physical, biological, and agricultural sciences; computer and information sciences; engineering and engineering technologies; and mathematics. The reason there is so much conversation about STEM is because estimates show "about five million people work directly in science, engineering, and technology— just over 4 percent of the workforce. This relatively small group of workers is considered to be critical to economic innovation and productivity. Workers in science and engineering fields tend to be well paid and enjoy better job security than do other workers. Workforce projections for 2018 by the U.S. Department of Labor show that nine of the 10 fastest-growing occupations that require at least a bachelor's degree will require significant scientific or mathematical training" (Why so Few? retrieved April 5, 2010).

There is growing concern that the United States is not preparing a sufficient number of students, teachers, and professionals in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Although the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results show improvement in U.S. pupils' knowledge of math and science, the large majority of students still fail to reach adequate levels of proficiency. When compared to other nations, the achievement of U.S. pupils appears inconsistent with the nation's role as a world leader in scientific innovation. (CRS Report for Congress retrieved April 5, 2010)

The U.S also has a striking disparity between the numbers of men and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. "The classical formulation of this idea is that men "naturally" excel in mathematically demanding disciplines, whereas women "naturally" excel in fields using language skills. Yet, recent gains in girls' mathematical achievement demonstrate the importance of culture and learning environments in the cultivation of abilities and interests" MATHEMATICS & SCIENCECONNECTIONS