By Alfie Poynter, UK Editorial Board
Why is there a gender imbalance in the STEM field and how can equality be achieved?
The STEM field is heavily dominated by men; areas like engineering have only 9% female workers. But why is this? We are currently living in one of the most accepting and encouraging societies ever, with gay marriage being legal in the UK and many other countries and women being free to choose any career they want, unlike in the past when society was very sexist and prejudiced. However, many women still choose not to pursue a career in STEM even though they have the ability to do so. I believe this imbalance can be traced back to a few key issues.
“There is a lack of encouragement for girls and women to pursue STEM related careers.”
Firstly, there is a lack of encouragement for girls and women to pursue STEM related careers. This could be a lack of encouragement by schools, the media or even parents. At a primary level in education there is no imbalance as sciences and maths are compulsory; however, when you begin to look at secondary education and those taking STEM subjects forward to graduate courses, this is where the imbalance starts to make itself obvious. Therefore, there must be something happening between primary school and university that is discouraging girls to pursue a STEM career yet encouraging boys. I think this is the biggest reason why there is lack of women in the STEM field: a lack of encouragement. If girls aren’t encouraged to take up a STEM career, why would they? There is no incentive to carry on with these subjects, so it is understandable that there is an imbalance in gender in the STEM field. Therefore, in order to help achieve equality, girls need to be encouraged all the way through the education system. However, forcing girls into STEM is definitely not the answer. I think one of the main causes of the lack of encouragement is a lack of role models. It’s a vicious cycle: if there is a lack of female role models in STEM then fewer girls will be encouraged to go into STEM meaning there will carry on to be a lack of female role models in STEM. This cycle must be stopped in order for gender equality in the field of STEM to be achieved.
“The media tend to objectify women instead of telling the public about their achievements.”
Additionally, I believe the media has a big impact on the gender imbalance in the STEM field. Even in 2017, the media often portray women in an unpleasant way; they tend to objectify women instead of telling the public about their achievements. This is unacceptable and has a huge negative impact on girls growing up today who are constantly exposed to this.
By portraying women in this way, the media likely causes girls to feel they don’t have the ability to make incredible breakthroughs in science, technology, engineering or mathematics when they most certainly do. Therefore, in order to reduce the imbalance, the media must start to cover female and male achievements equally and eliminate the male bias that is currently present. Otherwise finding women in the STEM field will be a huge rarity and, if the world got to this point, this would be a very sad thing. Diversity is needed within the STEM field; diversity brings new and exciting perspectives which lead to big breakthroughs in STEM. Furthermore, diversity helps to represent the whole population, which is very diverse.
“Diversity brings new and exciting perspectives which lead to big breakthroughs in STEM.”
STEM helps to build our knowledge of everything: in my opinion, it encompasses the most exciting subjects to study. This is why I think everyone who wants to be should be included in the STEM field. Anyone could be the next Albert Einstein or Marie Curie so there should be nothing stopping them. If those in STEM want to push the boundaries of our understanding of the world then we must first accept those who live in it.