Women In STEM Fields Continue to Face Challenges

What inspires you? Do you choose to pursue a STEM degree? Before we proceed, we must understand what STEM is all about. STEM is a curriculum which educates students in four specific disciplines – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics within an interdisciplinary and applied approach.

Students exposed to this program have opportunities to explore STEM-related concepts which help students to pursue a job in a STEM field. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women earned 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees in all fields in 2013. The Collaborative Project also reports that while women make up half of the national workforce, they account for only 29 percent of workers in computer science and engineering. It should be clear that women are capable of doing well in STEM fields which are traditionally dominated by men.

There appears to be prominent challenges for women entering male-dominated fields like technology and engineering. Why is the gender gap is overblown more than other areas?

Obstacles show when women are becoming mothers. Leave rates for women in SET (science, engineering, and technology) peak at about ten years into their careers. Potentially the reasons why women leave their careers could be because they leave to be start their own families. Similar to childcare there can be a possibility the person has to take care of an elderly or disabled loved one.

In addition, women are socialized to avoid STEM career choices because society considers them “unfeminine” like engineering or technology. Other fields of STEM seem to be acceptable like studying to become doctors, biologists or chemists which requires a knowledge of science. During women’s’ young stages of life, they are more likely to be encouraged to pursue careers in fields that are more nurturing, like teaching, or nursing.

This is both a result and reinforcement of stereotypes. Stereotypes are biased and do not take into account one’s’ capabilities.

It is debatable of whether stereotypes in media can affect one’s perspective. There is still the concern of the stereotype that media continues to promote stereotypes when it comes to programmers, often portraying them as geeky men.

Another factor can be the economic marginalization of women has led to earning them less than men. Perhaps if there were a wage equality of what both men and women work for there can be a more favorable outcome.

STEM is essential because it pervades every part of our lives is which is why there is a high emphasis on encouraging people to enter into these key roles in society. Women are less likely to join, more likely to leave tech-intensive fields but with the right motivation and reasonable accommodations, there may be a brighter future with women entering the STEM field.

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