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2018 Women in Engineering Empowerment Essay – Shefali Sharma

2018

Although countries have dramatically closed gender gaps in education and labor force participation, gender differences within education and employment particularly in STEM persist. Girl’s participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, is an area that seemingly refuses to budge. There is much that need to be done to improve the representation of girls in STEM. There are certain reasons that constraints the participation of girls in STEM workforce: aspirations which are molded by social norms and parental expectations; information failures i.e. lack of awareness, which affect the decision to enter and stay in a STEM field; and institutional factors that constrain the girl’s ability to enter a STEM job. The society need to work together with the authorities for mainstreaming the girls in STEM fields.

Certain actions can help to improve the participation of girls in STEM fields. Society has a major role to play. The intellectual persons should encourage their daughters, relatives and friends to consider a career in physics or engineering. Take them to work, show them the demonstrations, and be excited to share these experiences with them. As there are not many female role models or mentors that can help young women so the learned men should step forward and contribute their bit towards this noble cause. The job environment should have a welcoming attitude towards women in STEM fields and encourage the men to welcome (in words and actions) their female colleagues so that they know they are valued.

Scholarship programs targeted at women and girls in STEM would also contribute to increased opportunities for young women to pursue further study and eventually build career in STEM fields. The inclusion of gender responsive teaching strategies in teacher education, be they pre-and inservice programmes, so that female students can develop their full potential in STEM-related subjects.
The need of the hour is to have major gender-responsive actions from governments, through education and labor market policies, enforcement of gender-related laws, as well as certain initiatives for advocacy and awareness raising, is required to attract more girls into STEM fields. The structured and formalized gender responsive career counselling programmes can play a significant role for female students to have support and objective guidance as they begin to shape their career choices.

Allowing the girls to practically apply their learning in real-life situations as well as creative and hands-on experiments will not only contribute to enhancing the quality of learning but also increasing girls’ interest in learning these subjects. There should be appropriate funding for equipment and resources for stimulating girl student’s interest in STEM. The curriculum and learning materials should undergo rigorous review from a gender perspective to ensure that they do not perpetuate gender stereotypes. This should be done by involving a representative group of stakeholders with male and female experts for ensuring different perspectives.

Thus, the solution doesn’t need to be expensive; it can begin by stimulating the school and job environments that allow girls and women to be comfortable and confident within the STEM fields. Some promising actions such as: awareness workshops presenting women role models, introduce inclusive language in the classroom, and give information about STEM workplaces. Seemingly minute changes in behavior and aspirations can go a long way towards building a more equal and bright future for today’s girls.