STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, is an important field, one that requires talent, ingenuity, and creative thinking to solve the world’s problems.
However, historically women have been less likely than men to engage in STEM subjects at school, less likely to pursue STEM careers, and worst of all, less likely to be encouraged by parents and teachers to study STEM subjects in the first place.
We live in a time when we desperately need creative solutions to difficult problems, whether facing climate change, the energy crisis, space exploration, or the infrastructure needs of a growing population. Women could have answers to these issues but are being put off rewarding, exciting, meaningful careers in science, and this needs to change.
Less than one in five employees in the tech industry are women, despite the fact that women make up more than half of the U.S. workforce.
Women make up only around a quarter of the STEM workforce, less than a fifth of STEM board members are women, and only around 3% of STEM CEOs are women.
This is largely in part to the drastic drop-off of women studying STEM subjects after the age of 16, being encouraged or even told to study ‘softer’ subjects, instead of pursuing a talent for sciences.
Even today, STEM subjects are often seen as more ‘masculine’ subjects to study. Because of this, teachers and even parents can doubt girls’ maths or science abilities, which impacts their confidence in pursuing these subjects.
Because so few women work in STEM, workplaces often take on a male-centric or male-dominated culture. This makes it harder to introduce women into the workplace, especially since it’s more likely that those in charge of the hiring process will be overwhelmingly male.
The final reason why there aren’t as many women working in STEM is that there aren’t as many role models to influence and encourage young women to enter the field. This of course perpetuates a negative cycle, where fewer women pursue a career in STEM precisely because it seems like so few have been able to do it.
Only by bringing more women into the field can we break this cycle.
Only having one set of backgrounds or opinions has a negative impact on a workplace’s culture, productivity, and overall quality of work.
Ensuring an equal split of men and women helps bring in other viewpoints, considerations, and skill sets that would otherwise be missing. McKinsey found that companies with an even gender balance are around 25% more likely to outperform competitors.
By encouraging a wider talent pool, businesses can expect smarter, more competitive employees, with wider experiences to draw on for their work.
STEM careers generally offer high pay, in fact, a typical STEM worker earns two thirds more than the average worker in a non-STEM field.
Yet even in STEM, many women are missing out on higher pay compared to their male counterparts performing the same jobs. Men in STEM’s salaries are on average around $15,000 higher annually than women’s, so it’s clear there’s still more work to be done in closing the wage gap.
However, if more women were working in STEM, it would provide more women with economic security on an individual level, as well as close the overall national pay gap.
Encouraging young women to study STEM subjects and pursue science and engineering careers, is one step towards a more diverse and equal workforce. Beyond this, workplace initiatives designed to encourage and champion female STEM workers will help raise awareness of women in the field, which will, in turn, encourage more women to work in STEM in the future.