President Obama once said, “One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science, and engineering. We’ve got half the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent…not being encouraged the way they need to.”
Women only account for 24% of the STEM force today while the other 76% is accounted for by men. Why?
Stereotypes & Lack of Confidence and Encouragement
Girls who are passionate about STEM may not get enough encouragement from the community. There are many cases where in advanced math and science classes girls are the minority and often get teased about their ability to do well. Teachers also may tend to stereotype girls based on their gender and treat them differently than boys. These common stereotypes may include, “girls are bad at math” or “girls are not fit for engineering,” that not only boys but also girls believe at a young age.
The problem isn’t that women aren’t interested in STEM. Instead it is the fact that they need to balance their career and family. Studies show that single men and single women participate equally in STEM careers. Studies also show that if a woman is married with young children, she is 30 percent less likely than a single man to be employed. This is because women have trouble meeting the demands of their STEM careers if they have to provide for their family as well. Therefore they usually drop out of the STEM field.
However, it is important to realize that both women and men are both capable of finding success in STEM careers.
Just take a look at all the famous women whose contributions have influenced STEM today. Marie Curie, for example, discovered radium which changed the world by allowing us to do things like control cancer treatments and skin damage. Similarly, Rosalind Franklin research allowed future scientists to determine the structure of DNA.
What can we do?
One way to build confidence is to spread awareness of various STEM programs to young women and their families from elementary school onwards by introducing new STEM programs exclusively for girls. Teachers can support this too.
Support Women in the STEM force
Another solution we can implement is to provide grants and scholarships to families who have women and girls interested in STEM. By doing this, families will have more money that can be allocated to child care so that women can focus on their career better.
By Gautham Pillai, Langley High School