Wednesday, October 20, 2021
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What Are STEM Fields? Why Do More Women Need To Choose a STEM Career?

As the world advances, human exploration beyond our imagination is continuously evolving in tandem. Especially the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) are constantly growing, and global leaders in this arena are sure that all the sought-after jobs will fall under this radar in the upcoming decades. Although the sector is enormously booming, opening several career paths, unfortunately, a lack of female role models in the STEM field is still prevalent as we speak. According to a report, men continue to dominate the STEM workforce, with women accounting for less than a third of STEM employees worldwide. Sadly, the gender gap in STEM still exists, and the general notion that men perform better in STEM fields also prevails in our society.

Let’s explore STEM fields and their importance, the future of STEM careers, why more women need to be involved in STEM fields, and finally, the opportunities available for women in STEM.

What Is STEM?

Professional programmer at office

STEM education focuses on a curriculum specifically in four different fields. It is a term mainly used for grouping four separate academic courses. Let’s break it down a little more to understand the acronym of STEM.

  • Science: Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Environmental Science.
  • Technology: Computer and Information Technology, Cybersecurity and Computer Programming.
  • Engineering: Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical, Metallurgical, and Biomedical Engineering.
  • Mathematics: Arithmetic and Statistics.

STEM is used to derive an education curriculum for students in schools. In the days and times we live in, STEM has become more critical in globalization, like health and climate change.

On the other hand, globalization brings several opportunities to the world across various fields of study, and rightly at the center is STEM.

Asides from the opportunity available, STEM as an educational policy in school helps develop specific skills in its participants, which mainly includes:

  • innovative-mindset
  • digital knowledge
  • teamwork
  • critical thinking
  • problem-solving
  • good communication
  • free thinker, etc.

Why Is STEM Important?

With the ongoing trend in the global workforce, many jobs require STEM skills from their workers more than ever. This is because as science and technology advance (such as automation of jobs), it is imperative to make students bond, learn, and communicate with STEM.

STEM sets up people for adaptation in the four walls of an academic institution and beyond. In fact, employers are demanding STEM skills now more than ever, and the need would continue to rise.

According to research, 75% of jobs in Australia demand these skills from their applicants. Hence, the demand for STEM skills is only going to spike up in the coming years.

Women In STEM Field- What’s The Scenario Today?

women-in-stem-alignthoughts

The underrepresentation of women in STEM started a long time ago when people sold the idea that men perform better at science and math while women do better at arts and literature. Evidently, there’s a gender stereotype attached to the choice of field an individual wants to opt for.

This notion is evident in the US work culture, where white males hold 49% of science and engineering jobs and women hold 25% of STEM jobs.

For a long time now, the population of women involved in STEM courses and jobs has been significantly low.

On average, across several regions,  women are considered for a little below a third of people employed for roles in research and development (R&D) in 2016. The said number is considerably low as compared to men.

In Central Asia, 48.2% of men make it to the STEM fields, whereas in Latin America and the Caribbean, 45.1% of the population. On the other hand, 41.5% in the Arab States and 39.3% in Central and Eastern Europe. This shows male dominance in STEM jobs.

Research by catalyst shows that women are less likely to apply for high-paying STEM jobs in engineering and computer science fields in Canada.

Furthermore, among enrolled postsecondary students in 2017-2018, 37.8% women were represented in all STEM subjects, among which:

  • 56.9% were in Science and technology.
  • 20.2% was Engineering and technology.
  • 28% was Mathematics, computer, and information sciences.

In 2017, women earned approximately one-third (35.8%) of all recipients of STEM postsecondary degrees in Canada. The female role models in STEM are so minuscule that they rarely attain those high heights or are stuck between ranks.

Here are some women in STEM who changed the world

  • Katherine Johnson, NASA Space Scientist
  • Barbara Askin, Physical Chemistry
  • Mae C. Jemison, American Engineer
  • Rosalind Franklin, Chemist
  • Kalpana Chawla, Astronaut
  • Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at WHO

In the United States, not only are women’s presence so minimal, but the case is also worse for women of color. According to research conducted by catalyst between 2017 – 2018, women of color have just a few bachelors degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics field and here is how they stand:

  • 5.3% of Asian women.
  • 2.9% of Black women.
  • 4.3% of Latinas.
  • 0.1% of American Indian/Alaska Native women.

Here is where it gets worse an analysis of the biggest 1000 companies in the United States by profits earned by the firms. Women make only 18% of positions as chief information officers and chief technology officers across all STEM fields.

This poses the question: if there are so few young women in STEM fields, how is it possible for the younger generation to feel inspired and search for role models?

As much as there seems to be little encouragement to pursue a career in STEM, the opportunities available are enormous and too open to let slide. So, one has to find the courage within themselves to chase the field.

Is It Important For Girls To Have A Female Role Model In STEM Field?

Throughout the decades, women are breakings societal norms and fighting hard for their fundamental human rights. Even though women have come far with their quest to achieving great success at work, there’s still a long journey to eliminate the gender stereotype and biases associated with being a girl.

Even today, there are girls from an economically weaker background struggling with access to a proper education. A report even states that women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate people.

A lack of education among the girl child mainly arise due to:

  • Poverty
  • Child marriage
  • Preference of boy child in many families
  • Violence related to gender
  • Child labor
  • Economically developing countries
  • Poor fundings for girl child education

All the above factors make it challenging for girls from less privileged backgrounds to opt for the proper education. Hence, it is crucial to have a role model in this career path before embarking on this journey.

Here is why it is easier to replicate a path when someone has gone ahead of you:

  • The person’s experience is your guide to attain great heights in that field.
  • A research survey by CW jobs deduces that 64% of young girls are inspired to pursue STEM careers after seeing their role models following the same path, whereas only 47% of men said the same.
  • Also, the research found that a good number of women struggle to find inspirational personnel in a specific field. So you can see that more women would be inspired to follow a career in STEM than males, which is also why a role model is so important.
  • Finally, the research also shows a whopping 74% of women who haven’t yet decided on a career path have no role model. Out of those who haven’t found a key figure, 80% of them think having a role model would help them decide faster and better.

Therefore, the importance of female role models can not be over-emphasized for other girls wanting to choose a STEM career.

Why Do More Women Need To Choose a STEM Career?

lack-of-role-models-in-STEM-fields-alignthoughts

Although the odds are against women who want to fight their way to STEM careers, they still keep slaying all the obstacles and hurdles thrown their way because of these top three reasons.

1. STEM Skills Are Sought-After For Jobs

The global economy is developing rapidly, and the need for STEM is gaining more popularity, and it would continue to grow in the upcoming years. The creation of STEM jobs is increasing more than ever before.

Even in the fall’s thick brick and mortar jobs, STEM skills are in high demand, and it would continue to be so. New technological procedures are being adopted, and it would only be wise to position oneself amid all these changes.

2. Good Pay & Financial Freedom

Women need to become financially independent, no matter what, and having a STEM career can help women do that.

Since STEM trends align with technological advancement, its profitability is on the rise.

STEM is rightly at the center of our changing world because of which its value and importance are such that employers are willing and ready to pay a hefty amount for it.

With the status quo of our society being questioned and the gospel of gender equality being preached, there is no better time to get in on the train than now. This movement of women in STEM is here to stay.

3. Sustainable Solutions To Real-World Problems

STEM fields focus mainly on solving various challenges that are thrown at the real-world environment today.

One of the many skills that STEM develops in its students is critical thinking, which is essential to promoting a sustainable solution.

Most importantly, STEM education ensures that the right skills and knowledge are imparted to students to provide long-lasting development. STEM education sparks the right questions. Questions that would encourage the younger generation into curiosity- the ultimate tool for delivering solutions to our world.

What are the opportunities available for women in STEM?

With the diverse fields in STEM, the opportunities are endless. You don’t need a college career for all the options that STEM comes with; all you need is a degree, or a certification in that area of specialization—for example, a manufacturing technician.

Here is a shortlist of career opportunities available for women:

  • Medical doctors
  • Scientific research and development expert
  • Agriculturist: Soil and plant scientist, commercial horticulturist, agricultural salesperson, conservation planner, agricultural economist, etc.
  • Laboratory scientist
  • Health Care Practitioners
  • Computer analysts and scientists
  • Engineers
  • Statisticians
  • Software developers
  • Data science

How To Fix The Gender Gap In STEM?

The gender gap is evident in STEM career paths. Men predominantly hold many STEM jobs, which further discourages women from considering careers in science and technology fields.

However, there are actionable steps that can bridge the gender gap in the STEM workplace.

1. Early Exposure To STEM Education

Parents need to incite excitement in the mind of a girl child from an early age. Also, early exposure to STEM education has a favorable implication on the overall learning process for children in the later stage.

According to the Department of Education, early exposure to math knowledge promotes math success and projects reading achievement.

So, how to expose your child to the STEM field at an early age?

  • Encourage girls to participate in STEM clubs in their schools.
  • Let them visit summer camps.
  • Ask them to volunteer at science clubs.
  • Motivate them to participate in science exhibitions at school actively.

2. Awareness Of STEM Careers

Awareness plays a crucial role in facilitating interest in STEM careers among the girl child. For girls often lack the confidence to apply in STEM roles if they aren’t aware of the available careers in this field.

They must be adequately educated about the careers available in the STEM field before they jump into one.

Hence, the school teachers and parents must enable them to make informed decisions about the career paths in the STEM field.

How to encourage awareness for STEM fields in women?

  • Show them biographies of female leaders in STEM.
  • Conduct a fun STEM activity at home and school.
  • Encourage your girl child to explore STEM and computer science careers.

3. Female STEM Mentors

Female STEM mentors have a profound effect in motivating girls to opt for such career paths. In fact, when female STEM mentors lead other girls, achieving success in STEM feels more feasible for girls.

According to a study, 100% of women remained in engineering with a female STEM mentor, whereas 82% with a male mentor. Therefore, this clearly shows the intense impression of having female mentors who can lead, educate, coach, and cultivate STEM skills in the girl child.

4. Provide Hands-On Experience

Providing a hands-on learning experience to girls ensures an engaging learning environment in STEM fields. It is a crucial step to eradicate the gender gap in a STEM career as practical experience is more important than theoretical knowledge for girls to thrive in this field.

What can you do to provide practical knowledge to the girls?

Here are some organizations that provide hands-on experience to diminish the gender gap in STEM.

Conclusion,

In conclusion, there is no limit to what a woman can achieve when it comes to STEM.

The opportunities are there, the current trend of the world is in women’s favor, the society is finally beginning to ask the right questions regarding gender inequality.

There is no better time to instill into the younger generation the need for STEM that it has to offer.

What needs to be done now is to begin to inculcate into our curriculum STEM at a very tender age to our young girls. As they grow, all they will see are the opportunities available to them and not the challenges.

That way, not only would we raise the female STEM leaders and professionals for the present, we would also be laying the foundations for the future.

Key Takeaways On Women In STEM

  • There’s a dearth of female leaders in the STEM fields due to the male-dominated workforce in science and technology.
  • The report states that men continue to dominate the STEP workforce across many countries.
  • There’s a massive need for female leaders in the STEM field for a sustainable solution to world problems.
  • Since the demand for STEM skills is rising, many companies globally seek STEM skills in their applicants.
  • In the US workforce, white males hold 49% of science and engineering jobs, and women hold 25% of STEM jobs.
  • The lack of females in a STEM career is also because of poverty, child marriage, poor education, and gender violence.
  • However, exposing girls to former female leaders in STEM can encourage girls to fight difficult challenges and make a mark in the science and technology field.
  • Additionally, early exposure to STEM careers for a girl child can immensely help bridge the gender gap.
  • Furthermore, teachers and parents can spread awareness of STEM fields in children with real-life stories and holding science clubs at schools.
  • Lastly, providing hands-on experience to children can enable them to make an informed decision about the career choice they want to opt for in the future.

How many females are in STEM?

In 2019, a survey in the American Community that only 27% of women hold a STEM workforce in the US.

How to bridge the gender gap in a STEM career?

  • Early exposure to STEM subjects.
  • Awareness.
  • Female STEM mentors.
  • Providing hands-on experience.
Nihar B
With a decade of experience as a woman in tech, Nihar has worked with a range of companies from Fortune 500 corporations such as IBM, Accenture, Ericsson to H&M Group. Her diverse work-life enables her to share her knowledge to develop, grow, and succeed both professionally and personally in today's ever-changing world.

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