Published On: Thu, Oct 4th, 2018

Women in STEM: Closing an Age Old Gap

Traditionally, women are not encouraged to pursue any science-related career paths. Since their childhoods, they are directed towards more unrelated educational choices. However, recently, women started to consider career paths and education programs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and so, we are about to witness an age-old gender gap closed. But while a significant change is certainly happening, the emphasis on gender diversity in the industry still lacks, sometimes profusely.  

According to some expert’s opinion, the gender gap in computer science might take up to 100 years to be completely closed. But making women feel enthusiastic and boosting their confidence might, in fact, help our society close the gender gap sooner than anticipated.

photo: photologue_np via Flickr

Why do we need more women in STEM?

According to some vocal opinions, the STEM sector is one of the most important sectors today for further technological developments and advancements. This allows societies and economies to remain competitive and technologically advanced, these two coordinates being mandatory requirements from the modern society.

However, in a crucial sector for further development, women are underrepresented. All this, in spite of the fact that women make up for almost 50% of the global workforce. Closing the gender gap in STEM might mean we could find solutions and answers more efficiently than ever before. It has been proven that an equal representation of each gender is more beneficial for companies and research centres, as women can offer a different perspective on various matters and issues. By increasing the number of women with undergraduate STEM diplomas or higher education diplomas, the lower disproportionality rates might help the sector become more efficient and creative.

STEM fields are all crucial for sustainable development. They help decision-making factors find solutions to global challenges such as global warming, pollution, poverty caused by improper living conditions and weather disasters.

Besides, all industries and research fields should offer equal chances to education and job opportunities, as gender issues increase in importance across all industries. Considering the fact that women are underrepresented in these fields, it becomes mandatory to boost their numbers efficiently.

What led to the current situation?

Mainly, a combination of factors is guilty of women’s underrepresentation in these fields. Sociocultural preconceptions that women cannot perform as good as men do in these industries is the root of the issue. Furthermore, there is an economic factor. In most of the cases, females in male-dominated industries seem to be underpaid than their male counterparts. This makes women become slowly discouraged to pursue similar careers.

There is the psychological factor that plays a great role. Since a very young age, girls are taught what careers are more suitable for females. This makes them dismiss STEM options later in life. Since they learn that such career paths aren’t suitable for women, this shaped their attitude toward similar options.

How can we close the gender gap in STEM?

As the need for women in STEM is steadily increasing, we must start to find reliable solutions to attract more representatives of this gender in the sector. Global awareness levels on the matter seem to also steadily increase and drawing more girls to these study topics as well as jobs in the field.

To tackle the issue, UNESCO has been lately working on various projects that are due to build momentum and help women jump in the STEM ship. On 11th February 2016, the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science took place. Other palpable steps were also made by UNESCO. Through those, the organization is interested in getting a deeper insight into women’s participation in STEM studying programs. Furthermore, UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics implemented the STEM and Gender Advancement Projects. Through this project, the organization aims to reduce the gender gap in STEM and related industries. But first, UNESCO aims to better understand what triggers women’s participation in these fields and what might motivate girls in finding online chemistry tuition courses and pursuing a future STEM career path.

Confidence is a key factor

A severe lack of confidence is mainly what deters women and young girls from following a STEM undergraduate program, it may be necessary for all of us to change our attitude and teaching methods when it comes to girls. If young girls are taught that “boys are betters at Maths and girls are better at literature or social sciences” they are less likely to develop an interest in tech or engineering. This might deepen the gender gap in the long run.

Instead, parents and teachers should start teaching girls that they can pursue whatever career path they want and that there is no such thing as jobs for males and females. Young girls should be given a boost of confidence and encouraged to follow some unexpected career paths.

Special extra-curricular programs for girls

If schools and high-schools tailor STEM-oriented extra-curricular programs that show girls the opportunities open by mathematics, chemistry and computer science, the gap might be closed sooner than anticipated. Practical applications might stir their curiosity and make them wonder if they can truly follow similar career paths. Also, frequent career counselling sessions might help young girls better understand that these sectors are also accessible for women, too.

Equal pay for equal labour

Sometimes, women avoid STEM fields because of a common misconception: the wage gap. Truthfully speaking, while sometimes appear slight differences in women’s wages, they are motivated. Fewer hours worked, more days off and so on. STEM jobs are some of the best-paid out there and with the smallest wage gap. Of course, companies in the sector and research centres could do more in fixing the wage gap, but steps are already made in that direction.

These are some ways in which our society can overcome gender gaps, especially in these industries where an even distribution of genders would solve some of our society’s most severe issues: global warming, pollution and poverty. Universities, parents and research centres should do their best to include more women in STEM and close an age-old gap.

Author: Cynthia Madison

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