IWD 2022 Women in STEM and how to break prejudice?

We celebrated another International Women’s Day on March 8. The theme for the JIF 2022 campaign was #BreakTheBias. One of the most important aspects to breaking this bias is a discussion of the serious gender gap in STEM fields.

Certainly, this increasing participation of women in higher education and in the labor force in general has been one of the most remarkable achievements of the last century. However, the picture remains bleak when it comes to STEM. According to the United Nations, a tiny 5% of all mathematics and statistics students worldwide are women, and women make up just 8% of the global total in manufacturing, construction and engineering courses.

Even in the United States, women make up about 47% of the total workforce, but only 28% of the STEM workforce. Engineering and computer science – two of the most lucrative STEM fields in terms of earnings and job availability – remain heavily male-dominated. And since men vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM subjects at universities – only 21% of engineering majors and 19% of computer science majors are women – the gender gap remains particularly biased in some of the fastest growing and highest paying fields, warns the American Association of University Women (AAUW). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10.9% of all construction-related jobs are held by women.

The OECD average is no better — women made up less than 20% of entrants to tertiary computer science programs in OECD countries and only about 18% of entrants to engineering.

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Facts and statistics

A 2021 Pew study conducted again in the United States reveals some interesting facts:

  • Women now earn the majority of all undergraduate and graduate degrees, but their share is less in STEM fields.
  • In STEM, women make up a large majority of all workers in health-related jobs, but are heavily underrepresented in fields like engineering and IT.
  • Black and Hispanic workers remain underrepresented in the STEM workforce (9% and 8%, respectively) compared to their share of all workers (11% and 17%, respectively).

If the academic scene isn’t biased enough, let’s look at what’s happening in the corporate world:

  • Women made up just 3% of CEOs in the STEM industry in 2019, according to a Credit Suisse survey.
  • According to PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), one of the world’s most cited multidisciplinary scientific journals.
  • On an annual average, women earned $15,000 less than men, while facing greater gender discrimination (50%) in STEM workplaces compared to women in all occupations (41%), according to PewResearch.
Women in STEM

Break the bias

Women have traditionally been discouraged from pursuing careers in STEM, even though on average globally, girls have consistently outperformed boys in science test scores. And even when they opt for the sciences, it is generally the life and health sciences.

Despite this, some of the most notable modern STEM achievements have come from women. For example, the greatest discovery of our time – the Internet – would not have been possible without the active participation of certain women engineers, as noted by journalist Claire L. Evans in her book, Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. Or take the women NASA mathematicians behind the Apollo mission, even though the public face of the US space program was male. A story made famous by the Book, Apollo’s wivesand the movie, hidden numbers.

Breaking the century bias doesn’t happen with a hashtag. This is only the beginning of a dialogue. The bias must be broken by challenging the prevailing mindset and systemic fault lines. Involving and encouraging women to choose STEM careers is an important step in breaking down prejudice.

As the AAUW points out, STEM careers will help close the gender pay gap, improve women’s economic security, ensure a diverse and talented STEM workforce, and prevent bias in these fields. and the products and services they produce. Involving more women in STEM will also encourage innovation in science and technology, as currently the fields are deprived of an equal share of the global female workforce.

It is also important from a global point of view. While recognizing that advancing gender equality in the context of the climate crisis and disaster risk reduction is one of the greatest global challenges of the 21st century, the United Nations notes that women can be more effective and powerful agents of change in their communities for climate adaptation and mitigation.

For this to happen, it will be crucial to bring more women into the STEM fold.

It will be win-win for all.

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