Gender diversity is a massive topic of discussion in today’s workplace. Pew Research published a recent study revealing how half of US offices (52%) say that it is extremely important, claiming that gender diversity provides perspectives that contribute to company success. 43% claim that gender diversity provides equal opportunity for more people; 33% support gender diversity because they believe that it makes good business sense as it helps increase the supply of potential employees.
Interestingly, the level of support for gender diversity depends on individuals’ genders. The study shows that 61% of women in STEM jobs believe that diversity is highly important, while only 49% of men in STEM jobs are of the same sentiment.
The drive and advocacy to get more women in STEM positions is rising, but how difficult is it for a woman to find a career in the industry? Read on to learn more.
Women in STEM by the numbers
STEM careers are considered the jobs of the future, ones that enable sustainable development and push innovation and inclusivity forward. According to a document by UN Women, 75% of future jobs are anticipated to be related to STEM fields. Despite this, women are still disadvantaged by a massive gender gap. Women only make up 22% of the artificial intelligence workforce and an even more meager 12% of the machine learning industry.
On the upside, the percentage of women in STEM, particularly in science and engineering, has grown from 23% in 1993 to 29% in 2017, as reported in Maryville University’s feature on women in computer science. However, other sectors of STEM have experienced the reverse. For instance, the number of women in computer and mathematical science roles declined in the same period from 31% down to 27% due to more substantial growth among male counterparts. There are many reasons why the gap is still huge, including the exclusion of women in STEM education and the traditional heteronormative roles and responsibilities assigned to women. To this day, STEM posts such as engineering, math, and aeronautics jobs are still primarily perceived as male occupations. Based on these empirical data, optimistic projection models forecast that gender parity in STEM will continue until 2100.
Finding a career in STEM as a woman
There are still ways to help ease the gap and help women find a career in STEM.
Find a mentor
What better way to get a foot in the door than seeking the advice of someone already in the industry? As we previously discussed in our ‘Choosing the Right Mentor for You’ blog post, it can be challenging to find a mentor, especially if no one in your immediate social circle is viable. We also talked about how it doesn’t have to be a mentor who’s working the same job you’re aiming for. For example, if you’re interested in joining the pharmacological industry, you can still learn from women working as chemical, mechanical, and electrical engineers. Learn as much as possible about their experiences and find transferable skills you can use in your career.
Feed your passion and confidence
For years, women have been disparaged in the STEM community. A write-up by California City Colleges explains that while male and female students exhibit similar STEM performance in high school, females’ interest and confidence tend to dwindle after that. Some of the reasons why this happens include female STEM students losing interest in their subject matter, breaking away from mentor and advisor relationships, and receiving few positive experiences in student societies and conferences. It’s crucial to keep learning something new to combat this and avoid stagnation. It’s also important to surround yourself with supportive and encouraging people as you go further in your journey.
Several factors come into play in women’s standing in STEM. First, there needs to be a systemic change to promote gender diversity, but women must also stay tenacious and driven to close the gender gap.
Article written by Alicia Milton
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