This article was originally published on CrimsonEducation.org
The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields are some of the most progressive and invaluable areas of study. Yet, since their origins in the 18th century, these fields have remained predominantly male. Even though we’ve seen some positive progress, women in STEM are still highly underrepresented.
In addition to exploring this underrepresentation in STEM, scholars are looking for ways to rectify the inequality. It’s their goal to give women stronger voices within these fields and offer the recognition and compensation that go along with many of these careers.
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
To draw awareness to the inequality, give women and girls greater access to science, and empower them to create change in these areas, the United Nations declared 11 February as International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The UN set this day aside to promote equal access to employment and empower women and girls to pursue careers in these fields.
Each year, the UN highlights a specific area of need or concern. This year’s STEM topic, “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us,” is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) - Clean Water and Sanitation.
Learn more about how Crimson can help you find a STEM program that’s perfect for you!
What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. STEM education varies from school to school and depends on each student’s learning style and interest. According to Britannica, STEM “moves beyond simple test performance and focuses on developing higher level thinking skills by connecting classroom learning to the real world. STEM emphasizes collaboration, communication, research, problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity, skills that students need to be successful in today’s world regardless of specific interests or career goals. STEM is a direct response to the realization that our future will be built on our capacity for innovation, invention, and creative problem solving.”
History of Women in STEM
Women only make up 28% of the current STEM workforce. In college, men consistently outnumber women in most STEM fields. The gender gaps are even higher in the workforce, especially in careers like computer science, engineering, and many jobs of the future. Despite being systematically tracked away from STEM subjects, women in engineering and women in science careers are making considerable strides in STEM fields.
Famous Women in STEM
Women like Ana Roqué de Duprey, Ruth Rogan Benerito, and Katerine Johnson were pioneers in their respective STEM fields.
Ana wrote a geography textbook for her students, which the Department of Education of Puerto Rico later adopted. She was passionate about astronomy and education, founding several girls-only schools and the College of Mayagüez, which later became the Mayagüez Campus of the University of Puerto Rico.
Ruth was an American chemist and pioneer in bioproducts. She discovered a process to produce wrinkle-free, stain-free, and flame-resistant cotton fabrics. She was credited with saving the cotton industry in post-WWII America. She also developed a method to harvest fats from seeds and use it for the intravenous feeding of hospital patients.
Katherine was an African-American space scientist and mathematician. Her contributions to American aeronautics and space programs helped astronaut Alan Shephard become the first American in space and held the Apollo 11 get to the moon in 1969. She remains an advocate for students, encouraging them to pursue STEM careers.
Women in STEM Statistics
Even with the instability of the US economy, science and engineering jobs are growing 70 percent faster than other jobs. Women must have the same opportunities and advantages men have when competing for these degrees in demand for the future.
Women are typically given smaller research grants than their male colleagues and, while they represent 33.3% of all researchers, only 12% of members of national science academies are women.
In cutting edge fields such as artificial intelligence, only one in five professionals (22%) is a woman.
Despite a shortage of skills in most of the technological fields driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution, women still account for only 28% of engineering graduates and 40% of graduates in computer science and informatics.
Female researchers tend to have shorter, less well-paid careers. Their work is underrepresented in high-profile journals and they are often passed over for promotion.
The Pew Research Center recently reported that a typical STEM worker earns two-thirds more than someone working in a different field. Computer science and engineering were some of the highest-earning careers, and they also had the lowest percentage of women.
Challenges Women Face in STEM
Women and girls who choose STEM careers face many challenges in their career journeys, many stemming from gender STEM gaps that start in early childhood. The American Association of University Women highlights the top factors influencing gender STEM gaps.
Gender Stereotypes: Since STEM fields are often considered masculine fields, teachers often discredit girls’ math abilities as early as preschool
Male-Dominated Cultures: Men dominate the STEM field, which tends not to support or attract women or minorities.
Fewer Role Models: Since there are fewer women in the STEM fields, there are fewer role models. Girls who love STEM need scientist, engineer, and mathematician role models. These role models help them picture themselves in those careers.
Math Anxiety: For generations, girls have been told they aren’t as good at math as boys. Teachers (often women) can unintentionally pass their math anxiety to the girls in their classes.
Opportunities for Girls in STEM
Thanks to the United Nations, the American Association of University Women, and organizations that support women in STEM, the opportunities for women in STEM are increasing. Still, there’s more to do to close the gender gap in these fields!
Stemvillage.com ranked some of the top STEM resources for girls of all ages. Check out their page for details about each of these resources.
GC3 (Girls Creating Career Connections)
Web Adventures (from Rice University)
To learn more about STEM opportunities for girls in middle school, check out Crimson Rise. It’s the world’s first college prep program for 11-14-year-olds.
How Crimson Helps Women and Girls in STEM
STEM jobs will always be in demand jobs of the future, and it’s important to see more representation of women in STEM. The earlier girls know they can succeed in STEM subjects, the more skills and confidence they’ll have in their education. It takes work to attract, recruit, and retain women in STEM majors, but it’s not impossible, especially in intentionally inclusive cultures!
Interested in learning more about women in STEM and how you can get into a top STEM program at your dream college? Crimson helps students just like you fulfill their educational goals and reach their full potential.