Although the number of women pursuing careers in STEM has been steadily increasing over the past couple of years, women are still in the minority. Only 27% of students taking the AP Computer Science exam in the United States are female and a mere 18% of computer science degrees go to women, even though 60% of bachelor’s degrees go to females.
Young girls are rarely encouraged to pursue careers in the fields of engineering and technology because society has capitalized the STEM fields to be a male dominated field. A study by Microsoft has shown that the lack of women in STEM isn’t due to a lack of aptitude: girls performed better or the same as boys more than 50% of the time. Rather, it is biases such as gender stereotypes, social expectations, and the lack of role models that cause girls to lose interest in STEM as they grow older. Another reason is because gender discrimination is prominent in the workplace. Discrimination includes earning less income for the same work and being viewed as an inferior colleague.
Providing influential mentors and role-models, engaging girls in hands-on experiments, and creating non-competitive environments are all ways to bridge the gender gap in STEM. It is our responsibility to educate and motivate the women of the next generation. Through organizations such as ThinkSTEAM, more and more children are gaining confidence in themselves and strive to pursue a career in these fields.
By Aditi Locula, Michigan Student Ambassador