Step IT Up America's first graduating class in Atlanta

Step IT Up America’s first graduating class in Atlanta

Much has been written about the need to encourage women to embark on careers in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—and fill the demand for future STEM employment.

Coverage ramped up back in May, when Google blogged about its lack of diversity. “We’ve always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google,” the piece said. “We now realize we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues.”

Google’s workforce, it said, is made up of 70 percent men and 30 percent women. Ninety-one percent of employees are white or Asian. But it is a problem that is hardly isolated: the U.S. Department of Commerce reports that only 25 percent of people employed in STEM-related jobs are women and only 3 percent are minorities.

Increasing interest and access to education for STEM fields has become a hot topic. Google’s candid admission may not have started the fire, but it certainly fanned the flames.

One company’s efforts: Step IT Up America

Vice President Joe Biden at a speech endorsing the Step IT Up America program

Vice President Joe Biden at a speech endorsing the Step IT Up America program

The United States produces about 130,000 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) graduates every year. According to Sanjan Pillai, CEO of UST Global, a leading provider of end-to-end Information Technology (IT) services and solutions for Global 1000 companies, the United States as a country needs to have 2.5 million to 3 million STEM-educated professionals to continue to be competitive in various industries.

“In many cases, there are jobs, but they are going unfilled because the talent isn’t there to fill them,” says Pillai.

As women in STEM-related jobs earn 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs, initiatives to educate women to fill these roles could improve household incomes—and the future of many families—dramatically. Which is why UST Global’s Step IT Up America is more than a means to fill a talent gap, it’s a socially responsible thing to do, says the company’s CEO.

“Step IT Up America is bringing a renaissance by having women and women of color participate in the knowledge economy, which is so very important,” says Pillai.

Through Step IT Up America, UST Global provides a 12-week paid training program that can serve as a stepping for ambitious women into a new career in IT. There are three tracks for participants to choose from once the program starts: quality assurance, business analysis or software development. No IT job experience is needed, but a passion to succeed and demonstrated willingness to learn is required. Upon completion, graduates—like those in the company’s first class in Atlanta—are hired by UST Global as information technologists or place in a partnering company.

Step IT Up America’s objective is to have 5,000 additional information technologists employed at various client sites around the country by 2020. So far, Step IT Up America programs are in Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago. Future programs have been proposed for New York, WA, DC, and Oakland, CA.

UST Global has successfully implemented similar programs in Mexico, India, Span, Rwanda and other parts of the world.

Recently, Vice President Joseph Biden toured the Detroit operation and has spoken publicly about it since, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a strong supporter of the program in Chicago along with many other community leaders in the cities in which Step IT Up America operates.

Companies or organizations in participating markets that have an interest in accepting trained Step IT Up America hires or want to help engage their community can learn more at or by emailing Andrea Thornton at [email protected].