Women in STEM. Closing the Gender Gap
Although the STEM fields have historically been male dominated, many are mindful that it’s time to bridge the gender gap and work towards encouraging female innovators and leaders of the next generation to explore opportunities in this field.
Women have accounted for 30% of employment growth in STEM since 2010, but still make up less than one-quarter of employment in these occupations. The persistence of low female representation will bear a larger and larger economic cost with time. [iv]
To promote the willingness and inclusion of women in STEM, everyone has a role to play to shift away from keeping the status quo it being a field that is male dominated, and, encourage and spark the interest of females early on.
Parents hold an impactful role in creating an open dialogue with children to address gender stereotyping. Parents should encourage children to explore different interests and provide them with means to do so, which can be as simple as investing in educational toys that foster a healthy interest in technology and science. Make the connections between your child’s interests and possible career options. Provide resources, extracurricular activities and any additional educational assistance to help the younger generation reach their academic and career goals. To assist parents, Engineers Canada has started programs to hello young girls explore engineering programs, including a crest for Girl Guides and its support for the Engendering Success in STEM research consortium.
With only one in five of engineering program graduates being women — identical to statistics from 10 years ago[i] — it’s apparent that adjustments are needed as it relates to our teaching approaches to provide a gender balance in the STEM fields.
In computer science and math, a mere one in four graduates are women – which is less than 20 years ago.[ii]
Educators can review current lesson plans to ensure they are enticing to both genders. This may include collaborative group work or hands on lessons to help girls develop an interest and confidence in STEM related subjects. Educators can also provide information on the full range of career options available within the STEM fields to peak the interest of young girls and boys alike early on.
From Bill Nye the Science Guy, to the heavily male dominated cast of MythBusters, the media continues to play a role in gender stereotyping. Engineers and Scientists are frequently represented by men in the media — playing a part in how youth view gender representations in society. Rather than continuing down this path, we can leverage the media to highlight females who have made strides in their respective STEM industries, providing other females with role models. A great example of a positive female representation in STEM was with the 2017 release of the movie Hidden Figures. Based on the true story of the lives of three women working at NASA during the “space race” of the 1960’s, it provides an insight into the female contributions to STEM.
Employers continue to hold a large role in closing the gender gap.
With less than 13% of practicing licensed engineers being women,[iii] greater efforts can be made by hiring managers to diversify their employees. Although women in STEM occupations generally earn more than women in other positions, they still earn less than their male counterparts.[iv] Companies must be mindful of these division of wages — developing objective metrics and holding themselves accountable for meeting them. Fair wages combined with the recognition of accomplishments will assist in providing women with a sense that they can succeed in an industry, even if it is male dominated.
As a society we need to make a conscious effort to continue to draw females into this under-represented field. Ultimately, this will lessen the skills gap. Collectively, we need to place greater efforts on continuing to expand strategies that will lessen the gender gap and encourage women to pursue careers in STEM.
For more information on how to close the STEM gender gap, or to start your next STEM career, contact Adecco today!
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