We Need More Girls in STEM!

girls in STEM

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – why is it the world of men? Truth is, we need more girls in STEM!

Worldwide, STEM jobs are dominated by men, but this is not because they are better! It is because girls don’t get pushed into STEM as much as boys do, and that leads to a shortage of women further down the line.

There are many studies available online to show that men dominate STEM jobs…

In the US: Women remain underrepresented in engineering (14%), computer (25%), and physical science (39%) occupations.

In the UK: In 2018 only 12% of engineers were women.

…and other studies to show how gender balance in STEM can help companies and economies;

“Obviously as a scientist I am very interested in evidence and the data shows that companies that have more equal numbers of men and women in senior positions are more profitable, more innovative, and are better companies than those that are predominantly run by men.” More equal numbers of men and women occupying senior roles in the Stem sector can only be a positive development.

Ireland: Gender equality report finds that $12trn (€10.9trn) could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. Increased (gender) diversity at board and management levels helps improve financial performance.

America: According to research undertaken by the McKinsey Global Institute, gender parity in the workplace could add up to $28 trillion (or 26%) to the annual global GDP by 2525.

All of the devices and technology for use by women could, and should be, designed by women; but across Europe only 7% of technical jobs are filled by women.

So with all this positive news that has shown that women and men employed in equal proportions, will benefit not only the companies they work for, not only the economy, but actually all women too; then why are more women not getting STEM jobs?

The problem actually starts with men and women, believe it or not. (Well we can’t blame men for everything.) When girls are choosing subjects for school, their mothers and fathers influence their choices. According to a study involving 1500 students and hundreds of parents and teachers from England and Ireland, the data showed that  two-thirds of girls (65%) say their parents are most likely to influence subject choices at school.  And half said their parents influence their career aspirations.

It makes sense.  Most children will discuss careers with parents and teachers. But if parents don’t know about modern careers, or worse have some sort of conscious or unconscious gender bias, how can they possibly help their children choose? Parents that are not informed can end up being a barrier to their daughter’s careers. What about the 78% of teachers surveyed above (teachers that teach STEM subjects) that believed some STEM jobs were more suited to boy’s brains? Is it no wonder then, that girls don’t get pushed into STEM jobs?

Since STEM careers today are dominated by men already, today’s boys and girls, (tomorrow’s men and women) are the ones who will have to work to change this gender divide. If girls know about their dream careers earlier, then they will have a much better chance of achieving them. If boys know that girls can be just as good as boys can, then maybe access to STEM careers will start to become the norm for girls, as it already is for boys.

Girls just need a bit of help getting started. They need someone to show them all of the possibilities there are for girls, and they need to know this before they start junior high. Parents, guardians and teachers, are letting girls chose subjects without adequate information about what career doors those subjects may, or may not, open. We are letting girls miss an important opportunity to choose a career path that matters to them, one that inspires them. We are letting our girls down.

Junior high is too late to start finding out about careers. If a child has a dream, if someone or something ignites a passion in them, they can overcome many obstacles to achieve that dream. Equipped with the knowledge of a dream career, they can start on their path by making subject choices that take their passion into account. But they need to know which subjects will steer them towards their dream and they need to choose these subjects before they start junior high.

Thanks in part to modern media, some girls believe that singing, dancing, being famous, marrying someone famous, or becoming a rich sensation, is the only way girls can become successful. There are many other ways to become successful, and there are many other types of success. The careers and jobs that involve helping people and making a huge difference in the lives of others, are the most rewarding jobs. Studies above show, that 82% of girls in secondary schools want a career that involves helping others, but they cannot fully see how STEM facilitates that. There are lots of rewarding, satisfying, and helpful careers for girls, in the STEM sector.

We need to be able to tell girls about all of the great careers and amazing jobs they can have with STEM.  But we absolutely cannot do this, unless we know about them. We need to educate ourselves. We need to learn about all of the different possibilities there are for girls, so we can teach them how to dream.

Girls have many choices to become successful and girls can be so much more than just successful. Girls can grow up to become important in their field of work.  They can contribute to a greater movement; invent new technology and discover new medicines; help inspire others; and choose a career that can save people, animals, or even the whole world!

We need to show girls there is more to their future.  We need to help girls dream BIG.

This guest post was authored by Anne Daly

Anne Daly worked in STEM, building and repairing computers. She is a mother of two and lives in Ireland.
This post contains an excerpt from her upcoming book, Careers for Girls – Let go the sandbags and dream BIG.  Watch Ms Career Girl for a review!

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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