STEM: getting women involved

According to data analysis from LinkedIn, more women have entered into STEM careers over the last four decades than in any other. Philanthropist and former general manager at Microsoft, Melinda Gates, said: “Innovation happens when we approach urgent challenges from every different point of view. Bringing women and underrepresented minorities into the field guarantees that we see the full range of solutions to the real problems that people face in the world”.

The likes of Science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM, are industries heavily dominated by men. The ratio of women earning jobs in these fields are extremely low compared to men. Statistics from 2017 show that women made up only 23 per cent of the STEM workforce. Although this is low, this is 105,470 higher than the number in 2016.

Stereotypically, STEM related careers were best suited for the abilities of men, however this idea is changing thankfully. This year has seen some of the biggest names and influential figures in the industry being women, such as Kate Bouman, the woman who engineered the first image of a black hole.

Back in 2018, Fitbits 10 day-cycled period tracker was under criticism. If more women were involved in the creation, they would’ve realised this was three days too long. In the States, the tech industry is one of the highest paying fields — yet women are still paid less than their male counterparts.

Throughout this article we take a closer look at how women in the past four decades have entered into STEM careers.

Bye bye Biasness

Throughout our life, we have been taught that men are simply more suited to do certain jobs than what women are. Charles Darwin described women as intellectual inferiors and universities rejected women up until the 20th century.

Vice president of the American Association of University Women, Laura Segal argued: “Teachers and parents provide explicit and implicit messages starting in early childhood that boys and men are ‘better’ at math, and the gaps in the professions reinforce the opportunities, culture and lack of role models that perpetuate male dominance”.

The likes of schools, recruitment agencies and universities in the UK have tried several encouragements since 2012 to help encourage women to begin STEM careers. Previously, female students reported avoiding STEM courses because of a lack of female role models to identify with. If girls were taught about female role models like Marie Curie, for example, who discovered the effects of radiation, perhaps they’d be more inclined to pursue a career in the field.

More content focusing on women working within the industry has been included on exam boards in recent years to help get rid of this bias idea. Rosalind Franklin, a woman central to the understanding of DNA, has been taught across the nation. This has been linked to this year’s A-level results, which saw female students studying STEM courses (50.3%) outnumber male students (49.7%). In addition, Lookers, suppliers of car service plans, launched a female apprenticeship scheme back in 2018.

How this is being funded

Philanthropists have donated money towards fixing the gender gap in STEM industries to help support women entering into these careers. $25 million has been funded to boost girls’ interest by changing the narrative that they’re masculine careers. It’s expected to inspire other girls to follow other successful women.

After being reported that industries such as engineering have a rather toxic male dominated environment, this has drove many women out of this field. They noted that they had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously and to earn respect.

There has been the introduction of 125 female ambassadors by Lyda Hill Philanthropies to help represent women in STEM careers. Part of the donation will be used to fund grants for women to study STEM courses.

The beginning of development

Due to the lack of skilled STEM workers in the UK, it’s been reported that it’s costing over £1.5 billion a year, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Apprenticeships have an equal gender balance, yet only nine per cent of STEM apprentices are women.

More women are being informed about STEM related careers and are being encouraged to start apprenticeships in these sectors in an attempt to fix this disappointing statistic.

When lookers began their female apprenticeship scheme back in 2018, the aim was to double the amount of their female apprenticeships and provide a positive environment to encourage and attract women to STEM. Civil Engineering Consultancy, Patrick Parsons are an example of a company that offer this too.

More gender-neutral language is being used in STEM advertisements, helping to take a positive step in the right direction. However, there is a lot of progress to be made for women in STEM.

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