The International Women Day in Science is celebrated on February 11th. The objective is to emphasize the importance of girls and women in STEM. It is particularly important to highlight minority women scientists who have made great breakthroughs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) disciplines.
Women in STEM: Statistics
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, globally, women account for only about 30% of researchers, and evidence shows that their participation is even lower at leadership and decision-making levels . Similarly, according to the US Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration, women hold just 24% of STEM positions , with specific fields like Engineering having a considerably greater gender disparity. There’s also a lot of research on gender prejudice in STEM , which affects many parts of academics, including recruiting, publishing, citation counts, and teaching. According to American Community Survey (ACS), women made gains, growing from 8% of STEM jobs in 1970 to 27% in 2019. However, the males continuing to dominate in the domain. Men accounted up 52 percent of all employees in the United States, but 73 percent of STEM workers.
Women in STEM: History
Figure 1 shows that women are making gains in STEM occupations, but the statistics are still disheartening and the dream of gender equality is far from the reality. Since 1970, women’s participation in STEM fields has gradually increased, noteworthy gains in social science professions, from 19 percent in 1970 to 64 percent in 2019. In 2019, approximately half of individuals working in math (47 percent) were women and same is seen in life science and physical science disciplines, 45 percent were women. Figure 1 shows that women have made less progress in computer and engineering positions, which constitute the major portion of the STEM workforce (80 percent). Just about 25 percent of computer workers were female, and only about 15 percent of engineers were female. Women comprise up the large majority of social scientists in the United States. Social science professions, on the other hand, represents only 3 percent of STEM positions. Women employed in engineering careers have increased from 3 percent in 1970 to 15 percent in 2019. Although the proportion of women employed in computer professions is higher now than it was in 1970, it actually gone down from 1990 to 2019 . Why is that, and what is being done to better support women’s careers in computer science?
Reason for fewer Women in STEM
According to a survey, two-thirds of primary school children are interested in science; however, as they progress into middle school, the proportion of girls who are interested drops dramatically. Many females who had previously taken advanced scientific courses had dropped them by the time they reach high school. These statistics were then validated by Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of Colorado, which hypothesized the reasons for the drop in female interest. When it comes to learning computer science skills in secondary school, girls are given lesser focus than boys. As a result, female college students studying STEM subjects typically fall behind their male colleagues. Furthermore, because the majority of leaders in the industry are men, female students lack role models. Historically, males have dominated scientific areas.
Steps to Increase Women interest in Science
How this underrepresented talent can be retained, and what steps that can be taken to increase the women interest in computer science? The first and foremost action that can be taken in any field not just computer science is to create an equal learning environment. Redefining the field can capture the interest of women candidates, and this fact is tested by the University of California at Berkeley. Their basic computer science programmes underwent a transformation. What was previously known as an introduction to symbolic programming is now known as the beauty and joy of computing. The outcome of this step is that for the first time in history, women number exceeded number of mens in the class in 2014. Further, same kind of efforts were made by Harvey Mudd College’s to increase the number of women majoring in computer science.
Male-focused promotions for home computers contributed to a large drop in the number of women studying computer science and related degrees. According to Forbes, women have switched to disciplines that are traditionally categorised as humanities or liberal arts in the meantime. In June 2015, Newsweek published a storey on Harvey Mudd College’s efforts to prevent this tendency . Instead of conventional programming, its fundamental computer science course has been modified to promote creative approach to problem solving and industrial possibilities. The school has made courses less intimidating by separating them into two sections based on incoming students’ previous programming knowledge. As a result of this move, within four years, the ratio of female students enrolled in the computer science programme climbed from 10 percent to 40 percent.
Women in STEM: Scholarships
The Harvard Kennedy School Case Program has recognised Harvey Mudd College’s successful effort to boost the proportion of women majoring in computer science . There are also a number of other programmes geared at encouraging young women to pursue professions in computer science. Women can be encouraged to pursue scientific professions by using techniques such as arranging a contest, summer camp, science fair, and massive open online course (MOOC). The following are some of the computer science contests and summer camps: ProjectCSGirls, Technovation, Tech Trek, Carnegie Science Center, etc. The following are some of the most intriguing computer science MOOCs: Design of Computer Programs by Stanford University, Intro to Computer Science by the University of Virginia, Human-Computer Interaction by Stanford University, Introduction to Algorithms by Udacity, and Intro to Java Programming by San Jose State University.
A lot of efforts are being made to bring women in STEM, and still a lot of work is required especially at the grass root level. Awareness programs could be organized to ignite the interest of female students in science and technology. Further, it is expected from the employers to make their policies women-centered.
 Women in Science – Fact Sheet No.43
 Beede, David N. and Julian, Tiffany A. and Langdon, David and McKittrick, George and Khan, Beethika and Doms, Mark E., Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation (August 1, 2011). Economics and Statistics Administration Issue Brief No. 04-11, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1964782 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1964782
 Gender Bias in Academe: An Annotated Bibliography of Important Recent Studies by Danica Savonick on January 26, 2015, https://futures.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2015/01/26/gender-bias-in-academe-an-annotated-bibliography-of-important-recent-studie/
Cite this article
Mamta (2021), Role of Women in STEM, Insights2Techinfo, pp.1
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