• Project STEMinist

Why There is a Lack of Women in STEM

Over the past several decades, the world has witnessed the expansion of women in STEM-related fields. Although most of the departments in STEM are male-dominated, it goes without saying that one can find many female secretaries, attorneys, and entrepreneurs. However, when it comes to science, engineering, and technology, occupations in these areas are not so promising for females. While there is indeed an increment in the number of women who endeavor to learn STEM curricula in college and choose STEM careers, facts on women in STEM reveal that their percentage in these domains is dwindling. Apart from the fact that fewer women opt for STEM education and professions, but are also more inclined to quit and receive less payment than men. The fact that there is an immense weight about gender egalitarianism in the United States, a scarcity of women in STEM is absurd. Information from The Bureau of Labor Statistics displays that there is a demand for women in STEM. Even though STEM-related fields have the highest salaries, there continues to be a shortage of specialists. The Bureau indicates that there is a need for at least a million more people in STEM, and this number will continue to increase over the coming decades. Now, the question arises, why is there a deficit of women in STEM in today's society?

The environment and conditions of schools and institutes may shape a young women's interest and motivation in STEM. Sources indicate that about 74% of middle school girls have a curiosity in STEM subjects. However, reports from Microsoft reveal that this interest drops when they reach high school. A report from the American Association University of Women (AAUW), shows that the educational settings and social belief systems affect young girls' interest and achievements in STEM. Findings revealed that girls who believe that experience and learning expanded intelligence were more likely to do better on math tests. Also, the girls expressed more interest in pursuing science subjects in the future. The opposite belief achieved the contrary effect. Hence, a girl's mindset can have a tremendous influence on whether girls will keep their goals in STEM or gravitate more towards stereotypical female roles. Another study performed in Europe wanted to test the notion that how well a woman does on a math test has a direct correlation with how her country treats women. Women from countries such as Sweden and Iceland performed even better than the boys because society treated them as equals. On the contrary, women from other countries such as Turkey, where gender discrimination is prevalent, performed worse than the boys. Thus, a combination of both emphasis on gender equality and encouragement of growth mindset has a direct impact on girl's achievements in science and future career decisions.

Social prejudices also play a pivotal role and influence women's progress and career choices. Studies show that people view STEM fields as masculine up to this day. Society views women in science and engineering jobs as less competent and less qualified than men unless they are showing considerable success. And even then people mark them as less likable individuals. These stereotypes directly attack a woman's motivation and emotional state in their jobs and community. As a result, even those few women who end up in science and engineering positions are more likely to quit, stating isolation and hostility at their workplace as some of the primary reasons for them doing so.

Colleges, universities, and workplaces are also degrading women in STEM by not making necessary changes to accommodate females students and workers. In elementary school as well as middle school, young girls had many options and support to develop their STEM skills such as science fairs and science research classes, and allowed them to be eager in STEM subjects and have a desire to pursue them. However, beyond middle school, this support diminishes, and so does the number of women in STEM. Fewer girls keep their interest and motivation in science subjects in high school and enroll in STEM degrees, which results in fewer female graduates in science, technology, and engineering fields. As discussed above, the environment, social beliefs, and stereotypes determine how likely young women are to retain their interest and motivation in STEM subjects and pursue their passion in their adult life. Studies reveal that small adjustments in science and technology departments in universities and colleges, such as introductory courses with a broader overview, can significantly increase the numbers of female students who enroll in and remain in STEM degrees.

Due to the absence of women in STEM, not many young women have role models who can inspire them and motivate them to continue on the path of STEM. Stereotypes and biases also mold society's viewpoint on what women in STEM should appear to be. For instance, in 2015, a software company named OneLogin launched its recruitment marketing campaign that featured an attractive female engineer. It received a massive backlash from the public. People, especially males, were complaining that this is not what an engineer would resemble. The backlash resulted in a social media campaign, #ILookLikeAnEngineer, to raise awareness about the issue. There should not have been a need for protest if there was more gender diversity in STEM.

In conclusion, as data shows, women are not inferior to men when it comes to STEM. However, colleges, universities, and STEM workplaces need to implement the changes necessary to assist women and contribute more support and have a positive environment for them to focus on their skills without the pressure that men don't have. Because of this, society would not only see an increase of women in STEM but also be able to combat the surplus of unfilled STEM positions.

BY: Tauba Ashrafi


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