While young girls report marked ambitions for their futures, they flock to other types of work, often in more people-focused fields. The inequality in STEM creates a landscape where innovation for the masses is created by a small portion of the population with a very narrow and similar set of life experiences. Luckily, educators have been developing methods to foster interest in STEM fields in girls.
As Ride herself noted in her oral history at NASA, she became aware that after elementary school, “girls move away from science and math in numbers greater than boys do -- not because they’re not good at it and not because they’re not interested in it. This happens for a variety of reasons, most cultural or societal.”
More than half of female faculty members in the sciences have experienced harassment based on their gender, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM).
Four Otterbein University professors suggest that women may be averse to STEM fields because they feel they work harder than male students without earning higher grades. After conducting a study of 828 students in STEM classes, the professors discovered that while women felt they put more effort into their classes than men, they received approximately equivalent grades, which “indicates that women's higher perceived effort levels are not rewarded."
Organizations all over the world, such as EngineerGirl in the U.S., are working hard to encourage more women to seek careers in STEM fields, and it is clear that these bodies and their events are having an impact. However, my feeling is that we can and must do more in our schools to increase the number of women represented in STEM careers, not just because of the drive for equality but because we are potentially missing out on a massive pool of talent.
What causes the STEM pipeline to leak female minds so egregiously?Perhaps it’s the drain of potential female role models who deserve to win the Nobel Prize, but fail to receive science’s ultimate accolade. Children yearn for role models. In music and movies, sports and politics, heroines (and heroes) can catalyze early interests and spark lifelong ambitions.
Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black woman in outer space, fell in love with science at an early age. Decades later, she's encouraging girls of all ages and backgrounds to engage in STEM education and is sharing insight on how to overcome obstacles.
Although the gender gap in education and employment has narrowed significantly, women are still underrepresented in areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM fields. Even with the push toward the math and sciences, the number of women choosing to study engineering and physics has remained static since 2012, while the industry continues to grow in global importance.
If these high-paying jobs are dominated by men, it’s not a stretch to say that the earning potential between men and women will continue to widen if we don’t start making changes now. One part of the problem is that fewer women get technical jobs, even if they work at a technology company.
About one in three employees at Google, Facebook and Apple is a woman. That’s an imbalance that tech sector executives Sheryl Sandberg and Tim Cook say they want to change. Yet even if their companies set a target of just over half their new recruits being women, a Breakingviews calculator shows that closing the gender gap will take up to 15 years.