About Women in STEM Careers

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Updated: Aug 20, 2023
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Category: Culture
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2021/03/09
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When referencing the value of programs based around the concepts of science, technology, engineering, and math, the amount of achievements throughout history is impeccable. Without such careers dedicated to nurturing individuals who share a common belief that science will inevitably change the world for the better if pursued with diligence and a great amount of perseverance, our society today would not be as prosperous.

Although this aspect of careers related to these subjects seems like it would appeal to the dedicated and intellectual population, significantly fewer women pursue STEM careers than men.

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As of 2018, it has been revealed that women constitute 47 percent of the overall workforce and 28 percent of the Science and Engineering (S&E) workforce (National Girls Collaborative Project). Furthermore, the most popular career choice involving STEM among women is chemist, which shows that 35.2 percent of chemists are women while 11.1 percent of physicists and astronomers are women, and 7.9 percent of mechanical engineers are women as of 2016 (National Girls Collaborative Project). A majority of women who initially pursue STEM careers choose to opt out as well, indicating a significant problem within the environment of STEM, in addition to issues outside of the work environment (NASA Mission Team). Understanding the lack of women in STEM fields is imperative, as any occupation dominated by a single demographic will not maximize its value to any consumer. This observation raises the question: what is the best way to encourage more women to be involved in STEM careers? Arguably, the existence of demeaning stereotypes that women face in STEM-based activities and careers is the primary reason why women are underrepresented. Addressing these stereotypes and injustices among younger generations would increase the percentage of women’s involvement in STEM fields across the nation, including the implementation of political aspects in accordance with cultural aspects (NASA Mission Team, NASA Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, 2016).

Title IX Compliance:

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Advocates for Title IX justly contend that the application of such a title is not limited to athletics. The implication of Title IX serves as a proper mechanism, in a legal sense, to address tangible discrimination within STEM fields. This emphasizes that there is an abundance of legal support for institutions conducting Title IX compliance to ensure a fair and equal environment. The purpose behind the establishment of Title IX mainly aimed to enhance the abilities and protections of women in academia. However, over the years, Title IX enforcement in college athletics has been deemed distracting from the historical enforcement regarding other areas of education that are, unfortunately, common areas of gender-based discrimination against women, sexual harassment and assault, and instances of inequality. Kris De Welde, an associate professor of sociology with expertise in human sexuality and gender-based issues, along with Sandra Laursen, a leader of research with studies of career paths in STEM, emphasize this fact in their 2011 study. They observed through personal interaction with female applicants that “Sexism and harassment were more evident in contexts where women had not reached critical mass, and so were not sufficiently numerous to affect the local culture” (Welde, Laursen). According to the primary sources that were actively involved with the experiment, stereotyping and tokenism within the environment were prevalent. Such acts were precursors to the suppression that a majority of the respondents experienced. Since these incidents took place in the STEM work environment, statistically more towards women, the justification for further implementation of Title IX to address this is necessary.

Compliance with Title IX could make a significant difference in education as it did for women’s athletics. Ruta Sevo, an advocate for women and girls’ involvement in STEM with advanced degrees in civilization studies and information science, argues that an inter-institutional monitoring-based organization must be considered essential when discussing the possibility of setting standards and reviews.

Title IX compliance. In this sense, the monitoring would serve a similar purpose to that of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Institutions such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, among other independent agencies, do not require the special reporting or maintenance regarding the information associated with Title IX compliance from “grantee institutions” as a recipient of Federal Funding, and there are few Title IX complaints filed directly towards agencies (Sevo). Additionally, the Government Accountability Office, as of 2004, confirms this. Studies continue to indicate that discriminatory actions in the workplace, especially in male-dominated professions in areas such as STEM, continue to influence the career choices and professional progression of women (GAO). Because of these observations, the GAO established the recommendation that the administrators of agencies such as NASA take the appropriate steps to ensure that the actions of compliance reviews are conducted as required by Title IX. The evidence from these studies and conclusions represents the fact that if there were to be an established inter-institutional monitoring system to help uphold the underrepresented aspect of Title IX, systematic discrimination would be greatly reduced. The fact that compliance with this title is difficult now, only shows the need for change, as change within the implementation of legislation and policy can help the development of equitable environments. Through the implementation of strict expectations for the aspects of Title IX in academia and STEM workplaces, the number of women not only pursuing STEM careers, but staying in them as well, will increase.

Because the underlying purpose of Title IX is not properly advocated, the stricter enforcement of the legislation in areas that do not just primarily apply to athletics is important.

At this time, Title IX advocates seeking stricter enforcement of the regulation could result in the decrease of systematic discrimination, thus beneficially affecting the number of women in STEM fields. Title IX awareness among members of STEM programs is significantly low. This statement is of a debatable nature, since many would argue that the lack of women in STEM is simply because of psychological aspects contributing to interest, as significantly more women pursue fields related to humanities and sociology. For example, in 2015, a vast majority of elementary school teachers were women (United States Department of Labor). Daniel J. Emam, an associate in the Employment Law practice who focuses on employment counseling, litigation defense, and sexual harassment investigations, defense, and prevention, establishes a scientific rebuttal towards the claim. Emam references a 2015 study conducted by the Department of Education. It found that among high school graduates, 50 percent of boys expressed interest in math in school whereas 43 percent of girls felt the same. On the contrary, elementary school students expressed equal interest in STEM activities and professions despite the difference in gender. Emam argues that because of these results, the cultural issue of stereotyping is prominent within STEM, and it has an impact on the workplaces that harbor STEM in an unfortunately significant way, signifying the need for a change in the form of regulation. Strict Title IX regulatory action would be the most viable option when considering the fact that culturally established ideologies are difficult to maintain absolute consensus on.

The most esteemed alternative solution that would be enforced rather than Title IX regulation is the opportunity to establish programs in order to encourage the interest of STEM among young girls. However, as Emam emphasizes, this would be irrelevant considering the interest is already present.

Career Guidance and Mentor Programs

Contrary to popular belief, the concept of specialized programs dedicated to inspiring younger generations of girls to pursue STEM fields should not be dismissed. Such opportunities, especially those that offer hands-on experience and showcase female role models, can be highly effective. For instance, in 2015, a group of individuals from the University of Rhode Island organized a camp specifically designed to highlight the importance of STEM subjects to girls. The camp’s primary objective was achieved as demonstrated by before and after polls which showed an increased interest among the girls in pursuing STEM careers (Levine et. al). Therefore, it is clear that funded programs can significantly influence how the younger generation, particularly girls, view STEM careers.

In a similar vein, another camp led by experts in program development, youth services, and special education, determined that twice as many participants expressed an aspiration to become engineers at the end of the program compared to the start (Mosatche et. al). This outcome was attributed to the variety of experiences offered to the girls, drawn from the presence of female role models and engaging activities. These results bear a striking resemblance to the 2015 study mentioned earlier.

Richard N. Zare, the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science at Stanford University, underscores the importance of cultivating a diverse range of positive influences for women in STEM fields, as well as girls who have an interest in these areas. He argues that beneficial programs featuring female role models can effectively pique their interest in STEM. Zare goes on to advocate for stricter compliance with Title IX and the creation of programs aimed at younger generations of girls. He sees the application of Title IX as a powerful tool that can be leveraged to modify the gender composition and overall attitudes of all stakeholders (Zare). He notes, “Because of the flexibility that Title IX provides, both good and bad solutions exist, and we must seek only what is best both for the scientific enterprise and for women.” Zare acknowledges that challenges exist in trying to change culturally ingrained attitudes, even if they are unfair. However, he emphasizes the positive impact that these strategies can have on the representation of women in STEM careers.

Conclusion

Through the accumulated information regarding the best way to increase the demographic of females in STEM-related career positions, a majority of professionals and experts have debated between two options: establishing stricter forms of Title IX compliance and creating the application of programs and mentors for young girls to help encourage and promote a galvanizing image of women in the STEM workforce. Edward Kessler, founding director of the Woolf Institute and a leading thinker in relations, emphasizes the importance of users’ motives. He states in his writing, “This leads me to the conclusion that it is not the medium itself but the motives of the users that are most important.” (Kessler). The motives of younger generations should be enriched with ideas of confidence and motivation. However, emphasizing Title IX compliance can help ensure that programs such as NASA are doing the most to fortify the workplace, relinquishing any source of systematic discriminatory action that is taking place. Systematic sexism is the primary reason why numbers are as low as they are. With the implementation of offering the opportunity to show young girls the potential of pursuing STEM and Title IX compliance ensuring that potential is a reality, the number of women pursuing STEM-related careers will increase.

Bibliography

  1. The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education. “Women and STEM: Preparing for a Technology-Driven Economy .” ? The National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education?, 2017, www.ncwge.org/TitleIX45/Women%20and%20STEM.pdf.
  2. Emam, Daniel J. “Manufacturing Equality: Title IX, Proportionality, & Natural Demand.”
  3. George Town Journal?, 2017, georgetownlawjournal.org/articles/228/manufacturing-equality/pdf.
  4. Klien, Zachary Nathan. “STEMing Out Disparities: The Challenges of Applying Title IX to The Study of Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.” ?Rutgers Law Review ?, 2012, www.rutgerslawreview.com/wp-content/uploads/archive/vol64/issue3/Klein.pdf.
  5. Levine, Mindy, et al. “Addressing the STEM Gender Gap by Designing and Implementing an Educational Outreach Chemistry Camp for Middle School Girls.” ?Journal of Chemical Education?, ACS Publications, 2015, digitalcommons.uri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1080&=&context=chm_facpubs&=&sei-redir=1&referer=https%253A%252F%252Fscholar.google.com%252Fscholar%253Fhl%253Den%2526as_sdt%253D0%25252C6%2526q%253DImplemented%252Bprograms%252Bto%252Bencourage%252Bgirls%252Binto%252BSTEM%2526btnG%253D#search=%22Implemented%20programs%20encourage%20girls%20into%20STEM%22.
  6. Mosatche,, Harriet S., et al. “Effective STEM Programs for Adolescent Girls Three Approaches and Many Lessons Learned.” ?ERIC?, 2013, files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1003839.pdf.
  7. NASA. ?Mission Team NASA?. NASA Of Ce of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, 2016.
  8. Sevo, Ruta. “Literature Overview: The Application of Title IX to Science and Engineering.” SWE-AWE CASEE Overviews?, AWEonline, 2009, www.engr.psu.edu/awe/misc/ARPs/ARP_Overview_Title%20IX%20and%20SE.pdf.
  9. United States Government Accountability Office. “Women’s Participation in the Sciences Has Increased, but Agencies Need to Do More to Ensure Compliance with Title IX.” ?GAO?, 2004, www.gao.gov/new.items/d04639.pdf.
  10. Welde, Kris De, and Sandra L. Laursen. “The Glass Obstacle Course: Informal and Formal Barriers For Women Ph.D. Students in STEM Fields.” ?International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology ?, 2011, genderandset.open.ac.uk/index.php/genderandset/article/viewFile/205/363.
  11. Zare, Richard N. “Sex, Lies, and Title IX.” ?Citeseerx?, PSU, 2006, citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.632.4069&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
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About Women in STEM Careers. (2021, Mar 09). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/about-women-in-stem-careers/