Why more women than ever are embracing STEM careers

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are industries that have been traditionally dominated by men.

Women in these careers are low compared to men; in 2017, only 23% of females were in this industry. However, we have seen an increase as this is up by 105,470 and is higher than it was in 2016.

Careers in STEM are improving, with more women getting involved and taking up various roles in the industry. This year has seen some of the biggest names and influential figures in the industry being women, such as Kate Bouman, the woman who engineered the first image of a black hole.

In this article, we track how more women have entered STEM than any other field in the past four decades. 

More women are pursuing STEM careers

LinkedIn reported that more women got involved in STEM careers over the last four decades, than any other.

Philanthropist and former general manager at Microsoft, Melinda Gates, said: “Innovation happens when we approach urgent challenges from every different point of view. Bringing women and underrepresented minorities into the field guarantees that we see the full range of solutions to the real problems that people face in the world”.

In 2018, fitness tracking company Fitbit were criticised for their period tracker as it had a 10-day cycle. If more women were involved in the creation, they would’ve realised this was three days too long.

In the States, the tech industry is one of the highest paying fields – yet women are still paid less than their male counterparts.

Breaking through biases for women

Biases have, unfortunately, become normal in our daily lives. We’ve simply been brought up with the idea that men are better suited for certain jobs than women. Charles Darwin described women as intellectual inferiors and universities rejected women up until the 20th century.

‘’Teachers and parents provide explicit and implicit messages starting in early childhood that boys and men are ‘better’ at math, and the gaps in the professions reinforce the opportunities, culture and lack of role models that perpetuate male dominance”. The senior vice president for the American Association of University Women, Laura Segal said.

With thanks to schools, universities and recruitment agencies in the UK, programs have been set up to help women get into STEM-related careers.

Previously, female students reported avoiding STEM courses because of a lack of female role models to identify with. If girls were taught about female role models like Marie Curie, for example, who discovered the effects of radiation, perhaps they’d be more inclined to pursue a career in the field.

To help encourage change in the ideas of women taking up STEM-related careers, exam boards have created a lot content with famous women in the industry. Rosalind Franklin, a woman central to the understanding of DNA, has been taught across the nation.

This has been linked to this year’s A-level results, which saw female students studying STEM courses (50.3%) outnumber male students (49.7%). 

Funding for women in STEM

Thanks to philanthropists who are adamant to fix the gender gap in STEM industries, over $25 million has been funded. This is all to help boost girls’ interest by changing the narrative that they’re masculine careers. It’s expected to inspire other girls to follow other successful women. 

It has been said before that women have left male-dominant work environments like engineering because of a toxic masculine culture. They noted that they had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously and to earn respect.

Lyda Hill Philanthropies has introduced 125 female ambassadors to represent the different STEM-related careers. Part of the donation will be used to fund grants for women to study STEM courses.

Apprenticeships for women interested in STEM

Because of a lack of skilled STEM workers in the UK, it is costing the nation £1.5 billion a year. This is according to a report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Apprenticeships have an equal gender balance, yet only nine per cent of STEM apprentices are women.

A disappointing statistic, the government is trying to fix this disparity by helping women become more informed about apprenticeships to help them access STEM-related careers.

Lookers, retailers of a range of Motability vehicles, launched a female apprenticeship scheme back in 2018. The aim is to double the amount of their female apprenticeships and provide a positive environment to encourage and attract women to STEM.

We are seeing that big changes are happening. For example, advertisements use more gender-neutral language. However, there is still a long way to go for ideas to change for women in STEM. 

Photo by Christina @ wocintechch