Today, women are greatly underrepresented within STEM related fields and professions.If we plan to advance in the evolution of STEM, this demographic needs to change. Roughly half the world’s population is female and so it may be confusing as to why so few pursue STEM. Numerous factors may be contributing to this, but I suggest that there are three main issues we need to address.
The first problemis thatthe sense of the female community in STEM is not prominent enough. Isolation or seclusion often makes peoplemore apprehensive or more likely to fail. In some cases researchrevealed that when a femalewas teamed amongstthree males she becameless likely to succeed, never mind emerge the leader . However, introducing another female sets afoundation to build on, and she thenbecomes more likely to flourishwith this sense of community . Women currently in STEM need tosupport not only one another, but also the otherwomen pursuing STEM as well. For example,programs like CIPWIE introducefemale professionals to female students. By expanding and supporting initiatives like these we could immenselyincrease the female STEM community.
The second problemis that female frontrunnersin STEM do not receive enough recognition. Vroom’s Expectancy Theory states that people areunlikely topursuegoalsexpectedto be unrealistic or unachievable . Perhaps more women would pursue STEM if the successes of itsfemale leaders were acknowledged more often.By celebrating and recognizing female leadershipwe advertisethese successes as achievable. For example, the movie “Hidden Figures” highlights the triumphs of three female mathematicians from NASA .Significant women deserve recognition, and perhaps more could be showcased. Another impressive heroinecould be Margaret Hamilton; a softwareengineer whose work helped take humanity to the moon [See Appendix A]. There are many ways to promote female leadership whether it be throughthe media, the government, the schools, or the workplace; but it isthrough these examples thatwe could greatly impact the female populationwithinSTEM.
The final problem is that society has limited knowledge on what STEM really is. In my experience I have discovered that few people even know what engineering is or what careersitencompasses. We should therefore emphasize and prioritize STEM education and early development. Introducing girlsto STEM early on could better light the path towards their future. We could hold workshops and design competitions in schools, modify the school curricula, or even provide more electives options forstudents. Schools could offer courses in computer science, systems analysis, biomedical engineering, robotics, AutoCAD drafting, and so on. The reinforcementof this learningcould spark the inspiration we need tosignificantly increase the representation of women in STEM.
By creating a greater sense of community, promoting female leadership, and encouraging STEM education, we could greatly increase the female population withinSTEM. However, this requiresmore than anindividual effort. The support of the government, the schools, the public, and the women currentlyin STEM are the ones we need to make this happen. This initiative may be challenging, but it would no doubt benefit our society, our environment, and our economy. Women make up half of the workforce and yet only 24% of the professionalswithinSTEM .There is so much potential to unlock here and it would be senseless to continue missing out on all the amazing talent we have been so long deprived of.