Opinion

Women in STEM

The lack of graduates in STEM subjects is becoming more and more of a problem for the UK. In particular, there is a shortage of female scientists, IT specialists, engineers and mathematicians. My name is Jeremy Powers and I’m going to look at this problem into detail in this post.

Gender Imbalance

Gender imbalance in STEM fields (as well as other fields) is a major issue that needs to be addressed. I’m not going to talk about the moral implications of making women believe they can’t be part of STEM, which is a terrible thing to tell someone period, but instead I’ll say that, from a purely practical point of view, we need more people in STEM, and women must be a part of it. Businesses need talents in order to stay afloat, but with the gender bias unfortunately still prominent in the industries, many talents remain unlocked and businesses suffer losses as a result.

No to Gender Biases and Sexism

The problem of shortage of STEM talent on the market can be solved by getting more women on board. While the reluctance to hire women for the jobs in question could have been explained by sexism in the past, there is no excuse for such reluctance in this day and age, and there certainly should not be an excuse in the future. Women were reluctant to enter the profession for that very reason, and that needs to stop. If companies begin to hire women today, it’s very likely that more girls would choose to study a STEM-based subject in University, knowing that the gender bias is all but gone. The key is to ensure that young girls get the necessary education and awareness of the industry as soon as possible.

Gender bias and sexism can be fought by education and by working with young women in order to discover their STEM talents. The expanded pool of talent that would include more women would help many businesses that are short-staffed on STEM professionals, and would be a very welcome leap in the fight against sexism.

But how can we bridge the gap between women and STEM subjects? The good news is that things are looking a lot better than they did even 10 years ago. More girls are choosing to study STEM subjects for GCSEs and A-levels, and subsequently choose these subjects at University. However, we still have a long way to go. Most female STEM graduates from British Universities are international students, which is wonderful, but with the current political situation and UK’s unfortunate growing reluctance to accept international students, we need to do more to encourage UK girls to go into STEM fields.

The stereotypes that girls are just “not as good at maths” as their male counterparts has proven to be untrue on many occasions, when GCSE, A-level and even University female graduates have attained equally high marks in their assessments as the male students, and sometimes even higher. While it is great to see the stereotypes being smashed to pieces by talented young women, educational establishments as well as corporations need to join in.

The STEM sectors’ players often have sufficient funds in order to join the fight against sexism and launch initiatives that encourage women to pursue their passions related to science, maths, engineering and technology. A good example of this is Google’s “Made with Code” initiative aimed at encouraging girls to learn how the digital things that they love are made with code and to teach them how to code. Not only is coding a very useful skill in this day and age, it’s highly valued in many companies.

Tech Levels

Another example is the recent launch of Tech levels – new qualifications launched by AQA exam board in the UK last month. They are available equally to boys and girls and teach IT-based and engineering-based subjects. The government’s initiative is aimed at young people who want to be a part of STEM industry and is said to be an excellent way to get their foot in the door.

Governments and companies absolutely need to work together in order to fight gender bias and bridge the gap between male and female STEM professionals. Both the public and the private sector (as well as, the third sector, of course) undoubtedly realise the shortage of STEM talent on the market vital in the age of technological dominance and therefore, each sector can benefit from expanding the pool of STEM talents to include female professionals.

Sexism is, and has been for a long time, a problem in almost all industries, particularly STEM industries. We may have come a long way since the 20th century in terms of fighting gender bias, but it doesn’t mean that the fight is anywhere near over. Girls are told from a very young age that they can’t be a part of “boy things” like maths and science, and these attitudes can unfortunately stay with them for a long time, if nothing is done to combat them. Education must nurture everyone’s talents, irrespective of their gender, if we want women to succeed in their chosen fields. Equally, job opportunities for women must be there, and they have to know that they won’t be facing rejection on the basis of their gender. If we’re successful in smashing stereotypes and encouraging women to join STEM, the chances of the talent pool expanding within the next few years would increase tenfold.

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