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How to Get More Girls and Women into STEM

Updated on March 5, 2016

Therefore, creating the next generation of scientists and engineers is critical to economic development, requiring a wider range of available talent and more skilled workers that include women and minorities. According to a report, approximately 40 percent of today’s jobs demand STEM competencies, but only a quarter of women are currently represented in STEM areas (which are science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Why does the situation happen? And how to end the problem of the most and highest-paying job opportunities but the lowest representation of women?

1. The importance of getting more students, including females, interested in STEM?

Every country as a whole is in need of more engineers and scientists. There is just not enough of them involving in these fields. In schools, women drop out of engineering programs with – in average - higher grades than the men staying in such programs. This uptapped pool of people in both women and minority students, if they are encouraged, can power through not just high school but real-world STEM areas. Help them, and then help the country meet the demands of the technological problems of not having enough engineers and scientists.

2. Implicit biases

The issue can be one of the most damaging and least spoken about mechanisms through which happens. Just because you are reading this article does not mean you’re not biased. We all are. Very few people can understand the depth of this matter and as an extension how guilty we are. Such implicit racial and gender biases are pervasive, which pushes girls out of STEM.

Here are several examples that highlight how subtle the issue is. Your uncle might help you build a computer when you’re very small, but no one did the same for your younger sister. When your sister had problems with her computer, you would treat her just like she is stupid and then simply fix the problem for her (while a male friend could patiently explain the underlying issue for another boy and teach him how to fix that). Or somebody might give you Legos while gifting your sister art supplies or clothes, and that is when people have a gender-specific split on gifts for children. Those are only a few cases of implicit biases that you could be not aware of the potential cause-and-effect of your actions when making them.

3. What can we do about it?

How can you encourage individuals, especially females, to consider science and math? Here are some recommendations for you, whether you’re a parent, professor, professional or an employer.

Constantly run a mental loop in order to check the implicit biases.

Take a implicit bias test and then compile a list of things not to do. For instance, you may ask a kid “What do you wanna be when you grow up?”, and the definite answer can be “become a princess”, or “become a baseball player”. But think about the real world, maybe those kids will want to be mathematicians when they’re adult.

Remember that engineers are made, not born.

There are many hurdles ideas in recruiting women that math and science prowess is inherent. However, the truth is that you can totally learn to be a great engineer or programmer. And your brain is a muscle that needs to be worked so as to get stronger.

If a girl with a fixed mindset experiences a challenging task or encounters a setback in math, then she tends more to believe the stereotype that females are not as good as males in math. In the face of difficulties and challenges, girls who believe that doing math is a skill which needs to be improved with practice, then they maintain their confidence and understand the basis of success that – less to inherent ability and more to effort.

Show girls that STEM is about trial-and-error

It is critical to show young women that STEM areas rely on trial-and-error and they twill rarely find a solution on the first try. Studies have shown that the attrition of girls in STEM is B-phobia, in which girls are more like to drop subjects due to a B. this is because girls feel much more pressure than boys to be perfect. The engineering design process, in fact, is all about actions of testing a concept and readjusting it if failing. Hence, we need to get girls to understand that perfect is not always necessary, it sometimes hinders the learning and practicing process.


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    • ustoday profile image

      Mr Nguyen 19 months ago from Hanoi, Vietnam

      I think nothing is impossible and everything will be better in the near future.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 19 months ago from Brazil

      I couldn't agree more, there are too few women in these sciences. It takes forward thinking educators, parents, and communities to allow them to succeed in something other than 'female roles'.

      I have a hub about female inventors and it shows the ingenuity many women have. There has to be a deep felt passion within these girls and women to not settle for less than they deserve. This needs to be ingrained in them from an early age, I believe.

      There is nothing quite as empowering as a strong mother who can tell her daughter that she can be and do anything.