Over the last four decades more women have entered into STEM careers than ever before, according to Data analysis by LinkedIn. 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 recent years, the stereotypical view that STEM careers are more appropriately suited for men is changing. 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.
This highlights that a change in those working in STEM subjects have changed, as in the past the ratio of women earning jobs in these fields are extremely low compared to men. Statistics from 2017 show that women made up only 23 per cent of the STEM workforce. Although this is low, this is 105,470 higher than the number in 2016. In the States, the tech industry is one of the highest paying fields — yet women are still paid less than their male counterparts.
In order to encourage an increase in women in STEM industries, Lookers, providers of service plans, launched a female apprenticeship scheme back in 2018.
How can we remove such a stereotype?
The senior vice president for the American Association of University women, Laura Segal said: “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”.
This highlights that unfortunately, trying to remain unbiased is sometimes difficult to do. They’ve become a natural part of the way we think, especially when we’ve been raised 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.
In the UK there has been an increase from universities, schools and recruitment agencies to encourage more women into STEM subjects since 2012. 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.
Exam boards have begun including more famous women in the industry in order to combat bias stereotypes. 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%).
How STEM is being Funded?
In order to fix the gender gap in STEM industries, Philanthropists have donated towards supporting women who are involved in the industry. $25 million has been funded to boost girls’ interest by changing the narrative that they’re masculine careers. It’s expected to inspire other girls to follow other successful women.
Having toxic masculine environments like in the engineering sector has been reported to have driven women out the industry. They noted that they had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously and to earn respect.
To represent the different STEM-related careers, Lyda Hill Philanthropies introduced 125 female ambassadors. Part of the donation will be used to fund grants for women to study STEM courses.
Apprenticeships within STEM
To help women access STEM-related careers, the government is attempting to inform more women about apprenticeships in these industries to fix this disappointing statistic.
Currently, it is costing the nation £1.5 billion in the UK due to a lack of skilled STEM workers, 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.
STEM advertisements are now including more gender-neutral language in order to take positive steps towards equality. However, there is a lot of progress to be made for women in STEM.
Structural Engineering Consultancy, Patrick Parsons, are an example of a company which have took positive steps to increase female apprenticeships in their company.