STEM: Where Are the Women? Part 2


Last time I talked about the gender imbalance in STEM classes, programs and careers (in regards to female representation and unequal pay). Now I want to attempt to answer two big questions: why does this matter and what can be done to equalize the trend?

Mostly it relates to the general gender wage gap issue in North America. On average, in the workplace women make 77% of what their male coworkers make despite occupying similar positions and possessing a similar credentials. Getting more women into STEM could reduce the gender wage gap. Not only are there currently more jobs in STEM than in any other industry, but most of these high-tech jobs are high-paying, and STEM is the fastest growing industry today. Attaining STEM gender equality would be a major step towards achieving gender pay equity at large. Think about just a few the amazing scientific advancements and discoveries that we can't imagine living without: the nerve growth factor, the DNA double helix, nuclear fission, the AIDS drug AZT... all of these accomplishments were made by female scientists! And if we continue to limit female students from pursuing STEM programs, imagine all of the other scientific advancements we could be denying ourselves.

Possible Solutions: Addressing stereotypes early on and preventing their effects from snowballing. With standardized testing proving there is no biological impediment to girls thriving in STEM, that means we need social solutions. In our homes and schools we need to encourage girls to pursue a variety of interests, to introduce them to science as equally as the liberal arts, to encourage them to enter STEM programs if that is what they want. We need to nip harmful gender stereotypes in the bud, and teach girls they are just as capable of being scientists as boys. Lack of confidence is listed as the number one roadblock for girls entering STEM. In my personal experience, private schools greatly help to accomplish this goal because, as part of their inclusive nature, all students are expected to engage in all subject matter and are provided with ample opportunities to explore STEM classes and clubs thanks to the better funding in private schools. The private sector is also an important gateway: we need businesses to value female scientists the same as men, and to create programs supporting their female workers until more women start entering the STEM workforce.

If you're interested in learning more about girls and STEM, I highly recommend this fantastic website: The National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) has a lot of great resources and links to peer-reviewed publications and literature with detailed analyses about this complex sociological issue. In comparison my two posts are only the tip of the iceberg!

My references:

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