STEM Fields and Women

The job market is still recording record high unemployment numbers with the exception of some pockets in America.  What is interesting to note, however, is that American companies cannot find enough employees to fill the void that continues in the STEM positions – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. There simply are not enough professionals trained in these areas. Companies are searching for answers and the answers seemed to be focused around one group – women. Companies are finding that women are currently under-represented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Women make up half of all jobs identified in the United States economy but they hold less than 25% of the STEM jobs. “This has been the case throughout the past decade, even as college-educated women have increased their share of the overall workforce.” (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2011). In an era when women are increasingly prominent in medicine, law and business, why are there so few women scientists and engineers? A good explanation can be the existing stereotyping, gender bias, and climate of the engineering, math, and science departments at the university level.

What needs to be done to entice women into a field that historically has been dominated by men? Women need to be encouraged early on. The numbers are staggering. Women account for only 18% of the Bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer and information sciences in the United States so there is a definitive need to grow interest at a younger age.  Creative thinking skills that inspire young women have become a focus for communities, government, and academic research institutions. In general, the focus of education in elementary school tends to be on “tested” subjects: reading and math. Much of the STEM subjects are forgotten or at least not given the same attention. Once students reach middle school, basic ideas about perceived gender differences in STEM subjects have already been established among the student population, primarily through societal influences. Positive role models should help. Educators need to start early and provide the positive influences and mentors throughout elementary and middle school to counteract the long-standing norms. We need to challenge the notion that math, science, and technology are for “men only” and encourage the younger female population that it can be “cool” to be an engineer.

Source: Quast, Lisa. “Women And STEM Careers: How Microsoft Is Building A Bridge To Future Innovation — One Girl At A Time.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 22 Oct. 2012. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.


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