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Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers are primarily made up of male professionals. These subjects have not been a common career path selected by women and there has always been a small number of women who take STEM related career paths because of this. Recently, that number has changed. The number of women in STEM has increased, but that number continues to grow slowly. Although the number of women continues to increase, addressing issues such as gender differences and enhancing the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math earlier in school will persuade more women to enter STEM related careers.
One of the challenges many women face in STEM fields involves gender inequality. Monica Burdick, a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Ohio, mentions that there are three factors that force women out of STEM. Burdick writes. A recent National National Bureau of Economic Research working paper from Georgetown University researchers reports that three factors work together to force women out of STEM college majors: receiving low grades, the distribution of men and women in the respective fields, and existing stereotypes regarding gender.
How it works
To this day, many businesses function as a “boys club” (“Growing Presence of Women”). The American Psychological Association’s 122nd Annual Convention from 2014 stated that less than 40% of women who earn a degree in STEM choose to never enter the field or decide to leave the field because of issues such as gender differences (“Growing Presence of Women”). Burdick believes that organizations such as Women in Technology and Society of Women Engineers (SWE) can help other women overcome issues relating to gender imbalances. Organizations like these have mentors who are also women, and they are looked upon as leaders in STEM fields. Having mentors of the same gender allows them to be more approachable and they are easier to relate to. Burdick mentions,
These groups can also help women recognize institutional biases or the unacknowledged gender biases in themselves or others that might be preventing career advancement, forcing them to feel like they don’t belong, or inadvertently pushing them out of STEM. Leaders of these organizations are viewed to be successful by other women entering the STEM field and are looked upon. Leaders like these help shape the work environment, making it more welcoming for women (“Growing Presence of Women”). Having someone to look up to allows women to feel more comfortable and increases their confidence level, which influences more women to consider an occupation related to STEM.
There are not a lot of women who are typically interested in STEM. In 2014, only 7.9% of women enrolling in college had intentions of majoring in this particular field (Rincon). The American Society of Mechanical Engineers mentioned that K through 12 schools are making an effort to offer STEM subjects to students earlier in their academic careers (“Growing Presence of Women”). Activities like project-based learning and real-world problems are being introduced into more school courses and extracurricular activities (Burdick). With these activities, students are able to engage in realistic problems, exposing them to projects relating to the STEM field at a younger age. This interaction allows for students to gain a better understanding of what the field really involves. Having this kind of curriculum allows students to know if they are interested in STEM, and they are able to know if they will continue to have interest in it as the years go on. Interactions like these tend to interest and retain more women because it helps them connect to subjects dealing with the STEM field (Burdick). Connecting to related subjects keeps women confident in what they are doing and allows them to approach different kinds of problems. If they are confident in their abilities, there is a smaller chance of them giving up on a problem. Introducing women to this curriculum at a young age increases the likelihood of them seeking a degree in STEM (“Growing Presence of Women”). Creating an academic environment that involves project-based learning and real-world problems can encourage women to consider careers relating to the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math.
Overall, the number of women interested in STEM related fields have been significantly lower than the number of men interested in the same field. Subjects such as math and science are typically not a path that women look into for a career path, however, that has changed. The number of women in STEM careers have slowly increased recently. In order to keep these numbers growing, taking care of issues such as gender stereotypes, and promoting the STEM curriculum at a younger age will foster more women to enter careers dealing with science, technology, engineering, and math.
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