STEM is the acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. A profession within STEM industries are particularly male-dominated, and one reason for this may be that females are less likely to study STEM subjects at school and universities. Having women under-represented in any career field is not beneficial to them or the individual professions. This guide discusses why more women should pursue a professional career in STEM niches.
Why are there fewer women with STEM Careers?
The number of men outweighs women in most of the STEM careers, and it is also reflected in those who are studying. According to a report on the UNESCO website, just 35% of people who are studying higher level STEM subjects across the globe are female, and only 3% of those choose information and communication technologies. What is it that makes females less inclined to choose STEM subjects, however? It seems there are a number of factors at play.
As STEM careers are male-dominated, young girls and women do have enough role models in the industry to aspire to, and this could be a reason why fewer women choose to take up STEM subjects to study. With a lack of women in a profession, there is also a lack of female mentors. This may add another barrier to some women who may feel intimidated in a predominantly male environment, or that their skills or opinions are not taken as seriously as their male colleagues. When women feel this way, it often leads to extra pressure in having to prove themselves as being competent at their jobs.
According to Digital Leaders, the fact that women may have children can also be a reason why they are seen as not being committed enough to STEM roles, and women who already have children are less likely to be hired for positions with career progression opportunities.
Women are not seen in these roles on popular media, or on TV programs, so exposure to the idea of female STEM roles are limited. It is also common to depict those who work in the industry as being nerds or geeks, or people who are seen as boring. This stereotype can have an effect on impressionable youngsters who want to be liked by their peers. In order to fit in with social norms, especially at school age, many young girls opt to study other subjects.
Another possible reason for the lack of women in STEM roles is that culture often depicts males as being naturally better at analytical subjects than females. Now, this stereotype is being challenged, and countries all over the world are working to improve women’s involvement with STEM studies and careers.
Why does it matter?
We live in an age where technology develops fast. Without women providing equal representation, the digital age will be dominated by technology that is mostly designed by men. Being under-represented in any form is not something that empowers young girls and women.
Not only that, but having an industry with significantly less female input can only be detrimental to it overall. To get the best results and developments within any field of work, a diverse range of thinkers has to be better at solving problems and creating strategies than one with a bias towards one gender.
Examples of STEM Professions
- Science professions examples include biologists, chemists, geologists, forensic technicians, and ecologists.
- Technology professionals are IT experts, computer programmers, inventors, designers, and more.
- Engineering professions include industries such as civil engineering, electrical and mechanical, robotics, and machine learning.
- Mathematic professions include statisticians, data analysts, financial planners, economists, and actuaries.
With many of these professions, there is a cross-over of skills required from each STEM discipline.
Most professional STEM careers require a Bachelor’s degree as a base from which to begin. Often, further study can be taken while employed in an entry-level job, or there may be a chance to train for a specific niche as part of career development programs.
While many young women may not have chosen to study a STEM subject at greater depths, thankfully, with an increase in online learning opportunities, there are now more options for women who want to enter the STEM career field. For example, gaining an online masters in statistics is possible through a distance learning course.
To even up the balance of men and women in STEM careers, it is important to encourage school-age girls to participate in related subjects at school actively. While not every young girl will be interested in pursuing a career in the field, it will give those who are interested a better chance of going forward and gaining a professional qualification.
The Future of Women in STEM
While obvious discrimination against women has mostly disappeared in the workplace, there may still be unconscious discrimination that is still present. To combat this, there is an increase in the number of professional groups that women can join where they can meet other women in the field, create new contacts, and get advice if they need it. Having these professional groups provides support that women can benefit from, making it easier for more women to pursue STEM careers.
With schools now more mindful of encouraging girls to be confident in learning STEM subjects, and introducing them to positive female role models who are excelling in their profession, it is a positive step in combatting some of the gender stereotypes that we all grew up with. It is also important to show children that those who work in STEM roles are not ‘nerds’ but are people who enjoy their jobs. Rather than STEM roles being viewed as boring, they are being shown that it can be a fun and rewarding career.
Professions in STEM fields are likely to expand as new technologies develop, and there will be plenty of opportunities for both men and women to make it a career. The opportunities exist, and it is up to women to take them if we are to close the gender gap in the industry.
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