We know our world and culture is changing rapidly. There is a new invention and new innovation introduced to us daily that changes the way we live our lives. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills and jobs are the backbone of these efforts — and many of these STEM efforts are now being heralded by women. Even though this is promising, times are still changing very slowly for women in the STEM world.
According to BestColleges.com, the number of people interested in STEM degrees has increased tremendously — but more for males than females. The website says, “In 2014, only 40 percent of STEM graduates with doctoral degrees were women, a figure that has not budged in the past decade.” The article, Women In Stem, goes on to say that although more recruitment of women in STEM fields is happening, the gender gap is still stark in certain areas. Those areas? Engineering and Computer Science. The article says in these fields, “nearly four out of every five doctoral graduates in 2014 were men.” While this is not earth-shattering news, it confirms what many reports and articles have honed in on: Where are the women in STEM? How do we get more women excited about STEM degrees and fields?
In an April 2018 Harvard Business Review article, author Laura Sherbin, says there are women entering the STEM fields, but they are leaving those fields in droves. She says 52 percent of highly qualified women working for science, technology, or engineering companies leave their jobs. (www. hbr.org, 6 Things Successful Women In STEM Have In Common, Laura Sherbin, April 27, 2018) Sherbin says this is largely due to the challenges faced in the male-dominated industries.
Some of these challenges are not new, but still worth noting. Author Joan C. Williams, “The 5 Biases Pushing Women out of STEM”, conducted research diving into some of the challenges and biases women face in STEM roles. (www.hbr.org, Harvard Business Review, March 24, 2015).
Williams in this article, along with co-authors Katherine Phillips, Erika V. Hall and the Association for Women in Science, conducted in-depth interviews with 60 female scientists and surveyed 557 female scientists and discovered there were five types of bias for women scientists: Prove It Again (constantly having to prove you’re qualified), The Tightrope (act like a man or act too feminine?), Maternal Wall (proving you can be a good mother and a good scientist), Tug-Of-War (support among other women is hard in the workplace),and Isolation (racial disparity for minority women).
While there is no easy fix for any of these — especially the Isolation bias (more to come from SEEN on this disparity) — there are some suggestions for the other four biases.
Laura Sherbin states in her 2018 Harvard Business Review Article, there are some key attributes that have made women, who choose to stay in STEM, successful. Sherbin, as part of the Center for Talent Innovation, conducted a study herself on successful women in STEM and found there were six characteristics that propelled them to success: Confidence (believe in yourself), Claim Credit for Your Ideas (speak up, let your ideas be heard and accounted for), Peer Networks (network), Build Up Proteges (mentor), Authenticity (be yourself), Brand Yourself (let your talents be known).
These are all attributes that can be applied to succeed in life, in STEM corporate fields, and as well as STEM-focused careers in education. STEM-focused careers in education are roles such as: elementary and middle school teacher (math, science, art, etc.) IT Director, STEM Coordinator, STEM Directors and College Professor/Instructor and Scientist. These are just some of the many ways you can use your STEM knowledge in education.
For those educators who want to delve deeper into the STEM world, it may be necessary for you to get an advanced degree in STEM education.
In the Fall/Winter edition of SEEN, author Erika LeGendre spoke on the importance of educators pursuing an advanced degree in STEM. LeGendre says by obtaining an advanced degree, you’re truly preparing future leaders for tomorrow’s workforce.
The article cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics, who says more than half of the economy’s fastest growing jobs require significant training in one or more STEM disciplines, and 62 percent of all jobs today require STEM skills. (3 Reasons It’s Time to Pursue An Advanced Degree In STEM Education, Erika LeGendre, SEEN, Fall/Winter 2018) LeGendre emphasizes to prepare students for these future roles, educators need to pique the student’s interest in STEM through contemporary lessons. The lessons should start early and this enthusiasm in STEM/STEAM is especially needed for girls and young women looking to enter the workforce.
Another reason for more women to pursue STEM careers? Money. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration in 2017, women with STEM jobs earned 35 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs — even higher than the 30 percent STEM premium for men.
As a result, the gender wage gap is smaller in STEM jobs than in non-STEM jobs. Women with STEM jobs also earned 40 percent more than men with non-STEM jobs. (www.esa.doc.gov., Women in STEM 2017) While there is still an issue with pay equity, it does suggest that women may actually be able to earn more in some STEM career paths.
Growth in STEM occupations are expected to grow by 10 percent by 2024. (3 Reasons It’s Time to Pursue An Advanced Degree In STEM Education, Erika LeGendre, SEEN, Fall/Winter 2018) and women will need to be represented in these fields. The more we instill the confidence, positivity and support in our girls, and our women in the workforce now, there is hope we can truly become even more of a powerhouse in innovation in centuries to come.