The mark of a great society is that all citizens are given equal rights. Gender discrimination should be a thing of the past. However, there remains a shortage of female leaders in science and technology.1 Women seem to shy away from careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); however, all intellectuals should be allowed to work toward excellence.

Empowering women in STEM means more women contributing to shared goals within our society. As a result, family units are strengthened, leading to a healthier and wealthier nation.

How would productivity in STEM improve with better gender representation? This article explains the benefits of increased inclusion of women in STEM.

The Value of Representation for Women in STEM

Diversity in the workplace enhances productivity, work satisfaction, and innovation.2 McKinsey and Company, in a study of 366 companies, found a relationship between increased gender diversity and greater productivity. Companies with a greater female contribution saw better growth and productivity.2

Why do the numbers matter? Women have a distinct view of the world. Workplace diversity means that fresh ideas come from different perspectives.2 The challenges of the different genders need to be more fully represented. More equality in gender representation in STEM will see an increase in scientific solutions geared toward women’s issues.

STEM culture is deeply rooted in a male-dominated arena.3 As a result, there is a lack of confidence in the competence of women and few female role models. Incorporating more females allows for a change in STEM culture. In turn, STEM fields may become more attractive to a wider range of people. People who are comfortable in a non-discriminatory and inclusive environment can work together toward common goals.3

Representation contributes to the “social capital” of the workplace.3 Social capital means the meeting of like-minded and socially coherent groups. This cannot be taken for granted. Academic networks are male-dominated. Women tend to get less of a chance to network with their male counterparts. As a result, women have fewer collaborations and lesser knowledge of funding opportunities. This lowers the chance of females being granted tenure and leadership roles.3

The Value of Representation

A stronger female presence in academia would create more networking opportunities and collaboration for female scientists. Stronger female representation means better opportunities for growth! It will also help increase the number of women in STEM.

The Value of Motivation for Women in STEM

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is the underlying moral standpoint from which American society operates. It ensures that all people, no matter their gender, creed, or caste, are allowed to pursue their dreams. It is the essence of a great and wealthy society.

Companies with greater diversity show better returns as employment criteria emphasize merit and excellence rather than race or gender.2 Gathering like-minded people with common goals and interests, despite their race or gender, create an environment geared towards productivity. Everyone on the team has a passion and vested interest in STEM and is motivated to contribute their best.

Academic merit and talent should always surpass gender characteristics. The best person for the job should be given the opportunity to step forward into a role. That way, accomplishments are made by the most qualified, passionate, and hard-working people in the institute.

The Value of the Caregiver for Women in STEM

Women are natural caregivers and the academic setting is no exception. It is common for women to be approached by students seeking mentorship more often than men.4 As a result, women tend to mentor students more than men do. The leadership style of women is by far more supportive and collaborative.5

In STEM fields, men tend to encourage women to adopt a more aggressive leadership style.5 This tends to stifle women in their ability to progress at work. When women are allowed to be themselves, their teams become more unified and perform better under their leadership.5

In addition to mentoring more students, women are assigned more teaching loads within faculties.4 This leaves them very little time for planning their own research studies, securing grants, and publishing their work.4

There is a great need for nurturing younger talent. The few women present in a research department tackle heavier workloads than their male counterparts. A greater female staff portfolio in academia benefits everyone. The student will have more access to approachable and caring mentors. The female academic will have more time to focus on her own research interests.

The Value of the Caregiver

The caring nature of women and their need to solve the problems of others cannot be underrated. Problem-solving should come from people who care about others.

The Value of Creativity for Women in STEM

Many people don’t realize that from the bygone era of Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent van Gogh, men have been coined as the more creative gender. Independence and self-direction are historically male traits that have been a catalyst for creativity.6

Women were placed in subordinate roles and were not acknowledged for their talents.6 They were placed in charge of the home rather than playing a bigger role in society.6 It is not surprising that historical studies place men above women as more creative and innovative.6

A great lesson from the field of media and the arts comes from studies done on music.7 Female artists were found to create a greater number of novel soundtracks than male artists.7 Yet, women are underrepresented in music composition.7

Marie Curie dared to follow her passion at a time when science was deemed a male-dominated profession. She created roads to the discovery of novel radioactive elements.8

Marie also used her creativity to invent portable devices to use radioactive elements as diagnostic tools.8 STEM fields are in great need of creativity for innovation and thinking outside the box. Women are naturally creative and capable of coming up with innovative solutions.

The Value of Curiosity for Women in STEM

Curiosity is an integral part of human nature and is one of the key qualities of a great scientist. Darwin’s curiosity prompted him to explore the concept of evolution in greater depth. Exploration and discovery have always been associated with men in ships discovering new horizons.9

In this way, curiosity has been associated with bravado and male assertiveness to venture out into the world. A greater number of studies show more male interest and curiosity in the sciences.9

It is important to consider that there isn’t a difference between the curiosities of men and women. In the past, men were freer to explore the world than women. Men got to act upon their curiosity much more frequently and with more freedom than women were allowed.9

The Value of Curiosity

As time goes by, women have dared to venture out to explore the world more freely. The new generation brings forth women who want to act upon their curiosity. There should be more opportunities given to women who want to enter STEM and assuage their curiosity.

FAQs:

1. Why is highlighting the Gender Gap in STEM Significant?

Scientific progress is dependent on unique solutions that emerge from diverse perspectives, and closing the gender gap and diversifying STEM fields will help to ensure that tomorrow’s scientists approach problems from a variety of perspectives. Women are an integral part of society and their voices should be reflected in the progress of humanity.

2. Why More Women Should Join STEM?

Changing the fabric of society and the masculine culture of STEM fields is important.4 It’s not about why women should join, but why not? Women are as capable of great discoveries and advancements in science as men. There is nothing holding them back from achieving greatness and that is the right of every human being. When more women who are interested in STEM join these fields, it paves the way for future generations to be able to live their dreams, without reservation or obstacles to their progress.

3. What Percent of the STEM Field is Female?

In 2018, women made up 53% of STEM-related university degrees. Less than a quarter of computing (25%) and engineering workers (15%) are female.10 The health-related fields are made up of 74% of female workers.10 Within the health-related field, women make up 38% of physicians and surgeons.10 They account for 33% of dentists,  46% of optometrists,  64% of veterinarians, and 33% of EMTs and paramedics. There are still fewer females in the physical sciences, computing, and engineering occupations.10

4. Do Women Want to Be in STEM?

Women often have the misconception that they are not as capable of excellence in STEM subjects as their male counterparts.11 Despite more excellent performance at the undergraduate level, female students are viewed as less competent than their fellow male students.11 Women cannot escape stereotyping even when they outperform men in STEM subjects. Academic institutions need to foster respect for female accomplishments and celebrate females who are high achievers.11

5. How Do You Close the Gender Gap in STEM?

STEM is a rich and diverse field and there is more room for higher earnings than in any other field of work.10 Thus it is important to encourage interest among women. Changing the stereotype that STEM is a male-dominated field is a difficult task. Stronger role models for women are needed.12 These role models will foster more inspiration, and confidence in young girls. Proper role models change the mindset of peers and enhance peer engagement.12 In this way, girls will realize that they belong in STEM fields and will actively seek out STEM education and roles in the future.

References

  1. Discrimination. Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/discrimination/. Published 2022. Accessed June 3, 2022.
  2. Hunt V, Layton D, Prince S. Why diversity matters. https://www.mckinsey.com/. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/why-diversity-matters. Published 2015. Accessed June 3, 2022.
  3. Cheryan S, Ziegler S, Montoya A, Jiang L. Why are some STEM fields more gender balanced than others?. Psychol Bull. 2017;143(1):1-35. doi:10.1037/bul0000052
  4. Casad B, Franks J, Garasky C et al. Gender inequality in academia: Problems and solutions for women faculty in STEM. J Neurosci Res. 2020;99(1):13-23. doi:10.1002/jnr.24631
  5. van Oosten E, Buse K, Bilimoria D. The Leadership Lab for Women: Advancing and Retaining Women in STEM through Professional Development. Front Psychol. 2017;8. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02138
  6. Proudfoot D, Kay A, Koval C. A Gender Bias in the Attribution of Creativity. Psychol Sci. 2015;26(11):1751-1761. doi:10.1177/0956797615598739
  7. Askin N. Are Women More Creative Than Men? The Gendered Effects of Networks and Genres on Musical Creativity. Art. 2019.
  8. Marie Curie the scientist | Biog, facts & quotes. Marie Curie. https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/who/our-history/marie-curie-the-scientist. Published 2022. Accessed June 5, 2022.
  9. Hanshaw-King S. Curious Genders Gender Specific Obstacles in Exploration And Learning. https://eric.ed.gov. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED490628. Published 2022. Accessed June 5, 2022.
  10. STEM Jobs See Uneven Progress in Increasing Gender, Racial and Ethnic Diversity. Pew Research Center Science & Society. https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2021/04/01/stem-jobs-see-uneven-progress-in-increasing-gender-racial-and-ethnic-diversity/. Published 2022. Accessed June 1, 2022.
  11. Bloodhart B, Balgopal M, Casper A, Sample McMeeking L, Fischer E. Outperforming yet undervalued: Undergraduate women in STEM. PLoS One. 2020;15(6):e0234685. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0234685
  12. Girls in STEM: the importance of role models – Microsoft News Centre Europe. Microsoft News Centre Europe. https://news.microsoft.com/europe/features/girls-in-stem-the-importance-of-role-models/. Published 2022. Accessed June 1, 2022.