Research shows that women in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), continue to be underrepresented, despite the number of jobs in these areas increasing (1). This imbalance is at all levels, with less women studying STEM subjects at University, and even fewer going onto pursue a career in this field. According to recent data provided by UCAS, only 35% of STEM students in higher education are women (1), and when this is split down into specific subjects, the data is even more alarming. Take, for example, engineering, technology, and computer science. When data was analysed it showed that only 15% of its students were women, and this has gone unchanged over the past three years (1). These findings do not go unfounded, with numerous other studies and articles providing support and even more shocking figures. Findings from a recent study by PWC, show that only 3% of females say a STEM career is their first choice, and only 5% of STEM leadership positions are held by women (2).
But why is this? Are women biologically inferior to boys at STEM subjects? The answer in short, is no, women are not biologically inferior, and there is a range of influencing factors.
Firstly, women receive less information about STEM subjects at school than boys (1). Boys are encouraged to pursue these careers, while girls are pushed out, and pointed in different directions. Stereotypes also discourage young girls (3). Despite claims lacking in evidence, boys are historically considered better achieving in math and science subjects (3), and these stereotypes act as barriers to put girls off pursuing them. A lack of female role models also acts to discourage women (4). PWC highlighted this issue, with figures showing only 22% of students able to name a famous woman in technology (2), and as activist Marian Wright Edleman explained, “You can’t be what you can’t see” (5). If girls do not have a STEM role model, then how can they be expected to strive to be one themselves? Explanations continue, but what we really need to be focusing on is, how to change this, and make the future brighter and more inclusive for women.
To start with, our schools need to educate young girls better about careers in STEM, and information should be given to both genders from a young age (3). We need to challenge the negative stereotypes of boys performing better in these subjects, and both teachers and parents, must encourage the girls, who are equally as capable (1). Female STEM role models need to be championed and celebrated, in schools, universities, workplaces and at home, and the benefits of working in STEM fields must be discussed (6). This gender disparity is hurting our economy and putting a mass amount of talent to waste.
At Hack Oldham, we have a range of technology and computing facilities available. Ranging from 3D printers, 3D scanners, woodworking tools, and more. We run computer game clubs, coding sessions and role play gaming nights. These facilities and sessions are open to anyone, regardless of gender or proficiency. If you, or anyone you know, may be interested then please get involved. Let’s help to rebalance STEM fields, and create a more inclusive and equal future!
- (1) https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/11/women-in-tech-engineering-ellen-stofan/
- (2) https://www.pwc.co.uk/who-we-are/women-in-technology/time-to-close-the-gender-gap.html
- (3) https://www.nextgeneration.ie/blog/2018/08/why-arent-there-more-women-in-tech
- (4) https://www.womenintech.co.uk/why-are-there-so-little-women-in-technology
- (5) https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/11/women-in-tech-engineering-ellen-stofan/
- (6) https://www.girlup.org/gender-imbalance-in-stem/#sthash.Uug7jeE4.dpbs