Children are our future. That’s why we’re stepping up to support a matching fundraising effort for BoSTEM. This program, formed by the United Way Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and Boston Public Schools, provides STEM learning experiences to Boston middle school students. As part of this initiative, we are looking for volunteers and companies to offer their time and resources to support students who are interested in continuing their journeys in STEM.

This mission is important to both Rapid7 as a company and me personally, as I consider myself lucky to grow up in a household that valued education (especially math and science) and attend a high school that offered computer programming before Windows and Macintosh even existed (yes, high school was that long ago for me). This led me to study math in college, so I had a wide choice of careers in STEM available to me once I graduated.

However, in Rapid7’s hometown of Boston, too many students are opting out of STEM as a career opportunity too soon. Research by the United Way shows that fourth-graders are twice as likely as eighth-graders to report their favorite subject is math or science. By the time these students reach high school, they have already eliminated potential STEM career choices.

Meanwhile, with the ongoing success of our technology, biotech, and healthcare industries, the greater Boston economy is becoming more reliant on STEM-oriented industries for growth. We all know that the competition for talent in Boston is intense, pointing to a shortage of qualified candidates across all types of roles.

Recognizing this gap, the United Way Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley joined forces with Boston Public Schools in 2015 to form BoSTEM, which ensures 100% of Boston’s middle-schoolers have the opportunity to participate in expanded STEM learning experiences. The program works with agencies across Boston to provide access to after-school educational programs such as summer classes and robotics clubs, as well as access to dozens of technology companies for mentorship. BoSTEM has experienced enormous success, providing hundreds of hours of programming for thousands of students and even providing training for teachers and program staff.

While many students think choosing a STEM path means becoming a coder or a scientist, it’s important to remind them that’s not the case. While I was exposed to computers earlier than most of my peers, I’ve been able to build a career in technology without having to write a single line of code. Having a solid STEM foundation can provide an opportunity in sales, marketing, finance, or people strategy, and those roles are just as critical to the growth of our enterprises.

Another benefit of supporting STEM programs for Boston students is to help diversify our workforce. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, African-Americans and Latinos make up 48% of the overall U.S. workforce, yet they fill only 24% of STEM jobs. Like more and more companies, Rapid7 recognizes the value of a diverse workforce, and given the diversity of our home city, we should be able to build our companies with home-grown talent.

As my friend Christina Luconi once said, “Creating an environment that supports different points of view and perspectives organically broadens your network. This is vital, as we all want to hire the best possible people to our teams. Without a team that brings varied experiences and perspectives, you’ll miss out optimal problem solving approaches.”

To achieve our goals for diversity, our industry needs more students to choose the STEM path.

Rapid7 is so proud to help expand BoSTEM even further, and we hope that you’ll step up with us to support this amazing program.