This article originally appeared on BizWomen.
AUSTIN — There’s no shortage of pundits who sound the alarm about tech worker shortages or the need for more STEM graduates to fill those jobs, except that they don’t typically offer a solution. Then there’s Sara Brand, who has her own action plan to help solve the problem.
Brand is the founding general partner of Austin’s True Wealth Ventures. True Wealth is a new Austin VC firm that intends to invest solely in women-backed startups in the consumer health and sustainable product markets. She’s also the co-founder of a highly successful craft brewery in town, (512) Brewing Co.
Brand and I also chatted about STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — jobs and her ideas on how to get more women to pursue those careers. According to a recent report from NerdWallet.com, average STEM worker salaries topped $85,000 in 2014 compared to $47,000 for all jobs nationwide.
It’s been identified that in order for North American tech companies to fill a horde of jobs in the next decade, more women need to pursue STEM studies in college. How can we make this happen? I’m planning on moving the needle by creating more success stories by backing companies with women leaders, to get their products to market and create role models for girls. That’s really what’s missing. There’s such an unconscious mindset and bias
What can be done to get young girls interested in math and science?It’s been shown that most of the fallout happens in third and fourth grade where a girl’s confidence in math drops off, or she thinks it’s just not cool to be good in math. It’s really important to educate teachers and parents to be aware of this, and remind them of the unconscious cultural mindset that exists. You send your son to robotics camp and your daughter to dance or gymnastics camp without thinking much about it.
So how do parents get their 9-year-old daughter interested in robotics camp? We know now a lot more about what attracts girls to science. It’s not just a matter of designing something because that’s what the teacher says. Girls want to know there’s some purpose behind it to create something for the common good or positive impact on the world, so you tell them how robots can be used to help the elderly, things like that.
You’re interested in backing startups in the health care space. What kind of impact do you think the new Dell Medical School will have?[It’s] going to put Austin on the map for health tech with their focus on translational research, meaning they’re looking at how to commercialize the ideas that come out of the med school. Throw Whole Foods in the mix and all the innovation in consumer packaged goods in this town, and I think it’s going to be one of the most exciting spaces to be in over the next decade.