Science industries still dissuade women from STEM professions

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Science industries still dissuade women from STEM professions

Morgan White, Photographer

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Sexist science teachers and Barbies exclaiming that “math class is tough!” seem like parts of history, but women and girls are still told that the science fields should be left to boys. Stereotypes reign supreme, especially in a male-dominated field.

People attribute the lack of girls in science to their lack of interest. However, a recent study of fourth graders done by the National Science Foundation showed that 66 percent of girls and 68 percent of boys reported liking science. Stereotypes send girls away, and by the eighth grade boys have twice as much interest in science as girls. These ideals continue throughout high school, college, and especially in the workforce. Women are twice as likely to leave their science or engineering job as men with similar degrees.

“I think it begins when girls are very young and they are told to like certain things. Part of the reason that I was ever interested in science is because my parents never made me go in one direction. I was always encouraged to ask questions, and a lot of times women are not allowed to ask questions. I think that it’s been perpetuated by this idea that men were the only people in science. Women are certainly more  interested in science today, but it’s still only in the biological sciences, like me for instance. I think that’s there’s room for growth and I think that growth will happen through programs specifically encouraging girls in science,” Ms. Johnson, AP Biology and ASR teacher said.

Senior MaryEllen Hawkland receives instruction from Ms. Walker during her Physics class. Ms. Walker structures her groups based on gender, believing that throwing a girl in the mix of a group of males can make it hard for the female student to get her point across.

Morgan White
Senior MaryEllen Hawkland receives instruction from Ms. Walker during her Physics class. Ms. Walker structures her groups based on gender, believing that throwing a girl in the mix of a group of males can make it hard for the female student to get her point across.

This bias stems from the classroom. A teacher may favor boys while neglecting interested girls during class. Research shows that when teachers deliberately involve female students, everyone benefits

“In fields such as physics and some engineering fields, it’s still so male dominated that it’s hard for men to take female students seriously. A lot of time when women say their opinion, they are called some not nice words, whereas men are just seen as assertive. I know when I was in school teachers never saw [women] as serious science students. But I can see the change coming. [Women] tend to be more detail-oriented, so when I put a group together with more girls than boys, the estrogen tends to calm them down, and they can work together more effectively,” Ms. Walker said.

Luckily, recent campaigns designed to boost young women’s enthusiasm for science and engineering may be working. A survey by the Cambridge Occupational Analysts (COA), shows that the percentage of female students interested in civil engineering has risen by 10% over the last seven years, doubling the percentage rise of male pupils. While women are still under-represented in the field, more are graduating with science and technology degrees. Hopefully, businesses will respond by ensuring there are career opportunities for these female graduates.

Perhaps introducing more women throughout the field will lead to a change in opinions. The gender imbalance gives the impression that women remain unwelcome, further decreasing the likelihood of women joining. While more and more young ladies choose science-based degrees, further steps must be taken to include these women in the workforce.

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