Beating The Statistics
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
The U.S. Census Bureau reported that women in America only make up 26 percent of the STEM workforce, and yet, they make up 57 percent of the workforce as a whole in the U.S. The gender gap in the fields of science, coding, engineering, and finance continues to widen and will have large implications for upcoming generations of women. This gender gap in STEM has become regarded as such an urgent issue that former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama had created a presidential initiative to encourage more young girls and women to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). In the last 10 years, there has been an overwhelming amount of women who are finally demanding more representation in these fields.
The first question one might ask is why there is a gap in the first place. The top reason is a lack of role models for young girls. Young girls do not see other women going into the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, so they have fewer examples to look up to. Mentorship is vital for anyone trying to discover their passion and in pursuing a degree. Most young people look to their families, social media, books, and television shows to find someone they can look up to and admire. Females in media are not commonly presented as strong working women, but rather caring and thoughtful mothers. Children often choose to follow a career path because of the mentors they see in their everyday life. Because of the low numbers of women in STEM education majors and careers, this is a self-perpetuating problem. When girls find a role model that looks like them or acts as they do, they are much more likely to view their dreams as achievable and pursue their goals. The lack of “STEMinists” in powerful career positions and in the media suggests that girls have fewer people to look up to, and many girls will not end up pursuing a career in STEM because of it.
The other main reason this gap exists is because of sexism in the workplace and traditional stereotypes that simply do not hold true. When girls think about careers in STEM, they often imagine boring math equations and working around a lot of older, Caucasian men who they do not relate to. This stereotype is exaggerated by the presentation of math and science topics in textbooks and television shows, as females and minorities are rarely featured. In addition, the outdated assumption by many men that women have less natural talent than men in STEM fields is completely false. Several research studies have proven that young women can perform just as well as men in STEM careers and positions of power in the workplace. Despite this evidence, many women who attempt to join male dominated workplaces find themselves experiencing a cold and unaccepting work environment.
Although the path to a strong position in a science or technology career may not be as direct or easy for a woman, it does not mean girls should steer away from the challenge. This internal issue can be solved if female professionals focus on empowering each other and supporting one another in the workplace. There are several ways women and minorities can ban together and fight for change. One way to fight these stereotypes is to teach STEM early on in coeducational classrooms and highlight female scientists. Raising girls to learn among their male counterparts and giving them “STEMinists” to look up to will help girls feel a sense of community and support. This community was created to support young female minds who are seeking support and like-minded peers. It is our job, our responsibility, and my goal to unite girls and help them to feel empowered to overcome these statistics.
BY: Kenedy Quandt
Sources and Additional Reading:
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