The importance of advocating for women in STEM fields is an issue that must be addressed in all educational communities.
STEM classes encompass the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These courses not only connect students to real-world practices, but also develop communication, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. STEM is a necessary addition to education and learning, as it teaches students how to find solutions to problems through evidence-based explanations and ideas. Furthermore, STEM educations drive people to produce ideas, designs, and companies crucial to our economy.
STEM is one of the largest areas for occupations. Careers in this field provide much higher salaries than others overall, and allow for opportunities and potential across multiple disciplines. However, the STEM Gap presents a noticeable lack of women in STEM occupations. Although women occupy half of the U.S. college-educated workforce, only 28 percent of them work in a STEM field.
Women are heavily underrepresented in STEM. They are most commonly found in social science occupations, which encompass only 3 percent of STEM occupations. Moreover, they often do not make as much as their male counterparts in computer and engineering fields, which comprise 80 percent of the occupations within STEM.
The main contributing factors to the STEM Gap reside in deep-rooted societal issues. Throughout the United States, the annual salaries of men are almost $15,000 higher per year than those of women, and Latina and Black women earn $33,000 less in income.
Furthermore, gender stereotypes build barriers between young girls and STEM occupations, as they promote the idea that STEM fields are masculine pursuits. According to the National Science Foundation, only 21 percent of engineering majors in college are women, and only 19 percent of those in computer science are women. Girls often feel discouraged from STEM subjects at a young age, which can in turn impact their desire to enter the STEM community.
Regardless of these barriers, there are ways to close the STEM Gap. Beginning to learn about STEM opportunities in high school may be too late, as female students may already feel at a disadvantage in entering prospective STEM fields. However, society can work to boost girls’ confidence from young ages, and in doing so reassure them that they can succeed in math and science fields.
Due to gender differences, young women may not pursue opportunities in STEM fields, and therefore limit themselves to otherwise enriching and profitable opportunities. It is instrumental that people promote more inclusive cultures surrounding STEM occupations, and help advocate for women in the STEM community.
American Association of University Women. “The STEM Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.” AAUW, https://www.aauw.org/resources/research/the-stem-gap/. Accessed 15 9 2021.
Florida Department of Education. “Defining STEM.” Florida Department of Education, https://www.fldoe.org/academics/standards/subject-areas/math-science/stem/defining-stem.stml. Accessed 15 9 2021.
Martinez, Anthony, and Cheridan Christnacht. “Women Are Nearly Half of U.S. Workforce but Only 27% of STEM Workers.” United States Census Bureau, 26 1 2021, https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/01/women-making-gains-in-stem-occupations-but-still-underrepresented.html. Accessed 15 9 2021.
Ortman, Emily. “The Importance of Engaging and Supporting Women in STEM.” Society for Women's Health Research, 25 3 2020, https://swhr.org/the-importance-of-engaging-and-supporting-women-in-stem/. Accessed 15 9 2021.
About the Author:
Sascha Jalinous is a fifteen-year-old sophomore student. She loves animals and aspires to be a veterinarian in the future.