Despite the COVID-19 spread let's don't forget that March is Women's History Month. This month is one to reflect on women around the world — their year-round strides and accomplishments, everyday lives and impact on the planet. Even with fluctuations in politics and social movements, the contributions of women remain constant.
Progress in the workplace has come far but still has further to go. Women in STEM, especially, are making major strides and changing a landscape that lacks representation.
The number of women in science, technology, engineering and math is relatively low compared to men. Slowly, though, the percentages are increasing. With more representation and awareness, STEM females will eventually match the number of STEM males, ushering in a new era of equality.
Gender inequality in the workplace is nothing new. When women entered the workforce during World War II, it was out of necessity. During the feminist movement of the 1960s, women entered the workforce by choice. However, their options were quite limited. Most simply became secretaries, nurses, babysitters, or teachers.
Today, women work in all fields, but, the hard sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics are still dominated by men.
Is there is a reason that such a gap continues to exist in these particular fields? And what can be done to close this gap?
New technologies are dramatically transforming work and the global economy every day. This new age of automation creates new opportunities for businesses and governments, but due to gender barriers as old as time, the next generation of girls is at risk of being left behind. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers hold tremendous promise for millions of women—but only if new policies tackle access and education problems first.
STEM education remains in the spotlight 25 years after the term first emerged. Coined in the 1990s by the National Science Foundation, the acronym is applied to any curricula, event, policy or education program addressing Science, Technology, Engineering or Math. Most often it references Science and Math, but all four areas have become hot topics in the general education of K-12 students. The emphasis carries through to higher education and beyond, seeking to prepare young adults to assume 21st century worthy jobs. Anticipated areas of need include employees who are interactive as problem solvers, researchers, designers, and engineers.
Beyoncé famously stated that “girls run the world” and while her sentiment is hopeful, there are still academic fields where girls are under-represented. The world of STEM is still largely male dominated, and with this industry booming, it is important that young girls are awarded opportunities to join in. The problem is not that girls are not interested in STEM subjects but that they are not encouraged to enter these fields or study the subjects at school.
As a science teacher, keeping girls in STEM is something I strive for. A few years ago, my school was fortunate enough to have a Techbridge Girls after-school program. Techbridge Girls is a nonprofit organization focused on keeping girls in STEM. It provides role models, families, and organizations with training, curriculum, and support to girls in undeserved areas.
The co-teacher of the after-school program was a female college student who shared her own struggles and successes in the STEM field. The curriculum included the girls adjusting the design of a robotic wooden dinosaur until it could walk a short distance without falling over, disassembling a hair dryer to determine what made it work, properly soldering five locations on an electronic circuit board, and engineering a gumball machine. I witnessed the girls' confidence grow as the weekly tasks increased in difficulty. With each struggle, they needed to find their own solution and with each solution, they found success. The experience gave them a glimpse of what their future could consist of.
Science, technology, engineering, and math are more important than ever, so we’ve put together a list of books to encourage girls to persevere in these subjects.
As a society, we learn about the world and advance our well being through science and engineering. The United States may be known around the world for its higher education, but compared to many other leading and steadily emerging countries, we lack a strong focus on educating scientists and engineers. One significant reason that we have fallen behind is that we do not encourage our female students to pursue career paths in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
It is, unfortunately, no surprise that the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) still exists – from primary school right up through STEM-related careers. Recent reports call attention, once again, to the statistics: women earn disproportionately fewer STEM undergraduate degrees; women hold nearly 50% of all jobs in the US, but less than 25% of the STEM jobs; women with STEM degrees are more likely to work in education or healthcare than their male counterparts.
Women remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. In the field of engineering, for example, women earned fewer than 20 percent of doctorates in 2014.
Such gaps, however, are not the result of differences in intellectual ability. Girls currently make up over half of the United States’ gifted student population. If girls have the smarts needed for success in STEM, then what factors explain why they don’t pursue education and careers in these fields?