So, your six-year-old daughter has been dreaming of becoming a computer scientist. And, as much as you tell her that she will be able to do anything she wants to do, what you’re not telling her is the reality of the gender gap within every STEM field in this country. In fact, any field to do with science, technology, engineering or math has been dominated by men, and shielded from women, for centuries, and the effects of this remain today. According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce, highlighted by Forbes, only one out of every seven engineers is a female, and there has been no employment growth for women in the STEM fields since 2000.
The reasons behind this gap are varied, but we do know that a presence of more females in the STEM fields is a huge need. A lack of encouragement of girls to pursue math and science most definitely persists even at the grade school age. This subtle gender bias, mixed with a lack of female role models in STEM fields as it is, can change the direction of thousands of girls’ lives who may have once wanted to invent the next technological breakthrough. “The reason there aren’t more women computer scientists is because there aren’t more women computer scientists,” said Jocelyn Godfen, director of engineering at Facebook, summing up the problem to Forbes.
While the reality is a bit sad as we stand today, what we can do is come to a more solid understanding of the huge lack of female input in these very important fields and why this needs to change.
First and foremost, we need more women in the STEM fields so we can recruit the most talented people possible. If we are silently limiting half of the population, we are only living up to half our potential. As Myra Sadke, author of trailblazing 1973 book, Sexism in School and Society, and long-time researcher and advocate for women in the math and sciences once stated, “If the cure for cancer was in the mind of a girl, we might never discover it.”
A stronger presence of women in the STEM fields would also allow for a more well-rounded perspective in future innovations and technologies. When your scientists and inventors are solely men, there are just some elements of experience that they will not be able to bring to the table, and their solutions for society will only be best fit for the male half.
The need for women in STEM fields will also help to work against stereotypes about the math and sciences, in general. Engineers, programmers, and mathematicians are often presented as dweeby men, when, in fact, brilliant minds in these fields run the gamut of all colors, genders, sizes and social prowess. The ability to make STEM fields seem more accessible to anyone and everyone could do so much for science and humanity, as a whole. In fact, the Obama administration has recently announced an expansion of Title IX efforts in the math and sciences to meet the growing disparity between the genders represented in these fields.
Could this be a signal that the lack of women present in STEM fields is about to change? We can certainly hope for the best as we continue to push for more equal voices in these hugely important fields.
Nadia Jones is an education blogger for www.onlinecollege.org. She loves writing about education news and reform and exploring the possibilities of new learning models. Please contact Nadia with comments and questions at email@example.com.