Women have always played a critical role in society. In the earlier times, when thinking was more traditional and less progressive, women were restricted to their homes and families with no question of their stepping out. But gradually, as they started getting educated, they wanted to step out and become independent in every possible way.
As a result, there is hardly any sphere where we don’t find women in the modern world. Not only are they present, but they are making a name for themselves in their chosen fields. Slowly and gradually, they have broken the barriers holding them back.
However, despite so much progress, certain areas remain male bastions, and women find it challenging to make inroads in those areas. One of these areas is the STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths ). Women find it difficult to make their presence felt in this field owing to several barriers related to society’s way of thinking. The STEM gender gap is something that needs to be corrected.
Right from school and college, we find that boys outnumber girls in this field and then; obviously, there aren’t enough women in STEM-related careers. Considering how women are rising to the occasion in every area, it is high time that they did it in this one as well.
But if we want to have more women in this space, we first need to understand why there are so few to begin with.
Factors Responsible for the STEM Gender Gap
Some of the key factors responsible for the STEM gender gap are-
1. Gender Stereotypes
Right from the time girls are in pre-school, they are made to believe that subjects like Maths and Science are not for them. STEM fields are considered masculine, so it is assumed that girls cannot be good at them. This belief gets conditioned into their minds, and they consider STEM subjects and career options out of bounds. And if a girl does the unthinkable of showing interest in these areas, she is considered an aberration.
2. Male-dominated Culture
Even if girls are interested in STEM, they are discouraged and demotivated from progressing. The inflexible and exclusionary culture makes it difficult for them to succeed. The hostile environment can manifest in differential treatment, fewer opportunities for advancement and fewer resources allocated to support girls in these fields.
3. Absence of Role Models
Role models are crucial in inspiring and motivating people to follow in their footsteps. But this is very difficult in the case of STEM careers. Since girls are discouraged from pursuing STEM subjects, there aren’t enough successful women in STEM who can serve as role models to encourage girls to venture into this area.
4. Lack of Exposure and Encouragement
Since girls have less exposure to STEM subjects and career opportunities, it curbs their interest in this area and thus hinders their exploration of these fields. As a result, we don’t find a sufficient number of girls in the STEM field.
5. Perceived Lack of Support
Considering the discouraging tone of society, girls may believe they will not get the support and encouragement needed to pursue and persist in STEM fields. This may discourage them from taking on STEM subjects in school and college and pursuing STEM careers later.
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Steps to Remove the Gender Gap in Stem
Any prejudice or bias in society can only be removed with the effort of all the stakeholders. Exclusion of anyone from a career option cannot be accepted, and therefore, everyone needs to do their bit to remove this discrimination.
1. Role of Parents
Since the problem begins when girls are still young, we need to start working on it from there. Girls must be encouraged to follow their hearts and not be pushed into studying only some subjects. Parents need to change their outlook and way of thinking. They should treat their sons and daughters similarly and let their daughters study subjects of their choice.
2. Role of Schools and Colleges
Parents can only do half the work; the remaining has to be done by the schools and educational institutions. And over there, it is the responsibility of the educators to ensure that there is no discrimination between girls and boys. Girls should not be discouraged from studying STEM subjects. In fact, teachers should encourage and push girls into the STEM fields and provide help and assistance wherever required.
3. Changing Mindsets
While parents and educational institutions can do their bit, society must be more accepting of women in every field. People’s perspectives need to change, and they need to adopt a more progressive tone. Society should believe in giving equal opportunities to both boys and girls in every sphere of life. Gender should not and cannot come in the way of choices made by anyone, and stereotypes like beliefs that STEM areas are for men should be broken. This can be done through promoting diverse role models, showcasing successful individuals and debunking misconceptions about STEM careers.
4. Encouraging Inclusivity
Creating an inclusive and welcoming environment in STEM fields where everyone feels supported and valued is essential. This can include implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives and offering support networks and mentorship programs.
5. Changes in the Workplace
Employers also need to make it easier for women to make their STEM careers and discourage practices that discriminate against women. They should be treated at par with men in every respect, be it salary or career advancement.
What is Women in STEM?
“Women in STEM” refers to women who are actively involved in or pursuing careers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). These are typically male-dominated fields, and the term highlights the contributions and presence of women in these fields. Girls in STEM can include scientists, engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, and professionals working in various STEM-related industries and research sectors.
Why are There Less Women in STEM?
The underrepresentation of women in STEM fields is attributed to factors such as gender stereotypes and societal biases that discourage women from pursuing STEM careers and limit their opportunities for advancement.
How to Close the Gender Gap in STEM?
Closing the gender gap in STEM requires promoting early education and awareness, actively addressing biases, and providing mentorship and support to encourage more women to pursue STEM careers.
Who is a Famous Women in STEM?
One famous woman in STEM is Marie Curie, a pioneering physicist, and chemist who conducted research on radioactivity and became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different scientific fields (Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911).
Like any other barrier to women’s progression, the lack of women in STEM areas can only be broken if there is a willingness to do that. People have to believe that everyone needs to be given an equal opportunity in life, and gender cannot be a reason for not giving that opportunity. It is only when the mindset changes society will change its way of thinking, and women will be able to make inroads in this male bastion.
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Girls must be encouraged to make choices based on their interests and abilities, which will lead to more girls studying STEM subjects and then pursuing STEM-related careers, and very soon, we will have enough role models for the younger generation.
Removing these barriers requires a multi-faceted approach involving education, resources, inclusivity, collaboration, policy changes and support networks.