Why so few women in STEM professions (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)

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Stop for a second and think: Can you recall a woman’s name coming from the STEM field such as a Mathematician or an Engineer? Probably a number of male scientists came to your mind?

According to UNESCO’s latest report (2017), less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women and in higher education, only 35% of all students enrolled in STEM-related fields are female. Continuing, it arose that cultural and social norms seem to influence the perceptions of both boys and girls about their abilities, role in society and career. Their social environment is also a catalyst in framing their gender roles at an early age.

Even though the statistics indicate that women outperform men in undergraduate STEM classes, men are still perceived as equal or better students in physical science courses (Bloodhart et al., 2020). This happens due to the well-established stereotypes regarding boys and girl’s abilities and “talents” where we see boys becoming Technicians and girls following a career in social sciences and humanities.

Another considerable factor that breaks the myth about boys having “a math brain”, is that girls tend to lose their confidence in Math by third grade whereas boys by the second grade are already considered stronger even without academic evidence (AAUW, n.a).

In an effort to address gender disparities in STEM, two european funded projects, IN2STEAM and RoboGirls aim at empowering young girls to enter STEM fields of study and careers. Both projects promote innovative, inclusive strategies utilizing contemporary, student-centred teaching approaches to enhance girls’ confidence and self-esteem towards STEM and promote their active participation. It is highlighted that young boys are part of the projects as well.

*Both projects are coordinated by CARDET.

*For more information visit their websites:

https://in2steam.eu/

https://robogirls.eu/en/

References:

Bloodhart, B., Balgopal, M. M., Casper, A. M. A., Sample McMeeking, L. B., & Fischer, E. V. (2020). Outperforming yet undervalued: Undergraduate women in STEM. Plos one15(6), e0234685.

UNESCO. (2017). Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000253479   

AAUW. (n.a). The STEM Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Retrieved from https://www.aauw.org/resources/research/the-stem-gap/

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