Early STEM Exposure Needed to Close Gender Gap


Written by: Reagan Flowers, Ph.D.

It’s no secret that women have long been underrepresented in STEM careers, but recent numbers show another problem. Since the 1990s, the number of women in these careers has increased. But, unfortunately, they have stayed relatively the same over the last decade. All this is in light of the fact that, in the coming years, there will be more tech jobs available than qualified candidates. So let’s take a look at how we can take action to help females take advantage of these opportunities.

Female STEM Worker Growth Stalled in Recent Years

Let’s look at the data. As of 2019, women made up 48% of the workforce but only 27% of STEM workers. This number has remained relatively the same since 2010. Specifically, the number of women in science and engineering rose from 23% in 1993 to 28% in 2010 but has stalled since. During the same period (1993-2010), female biological, agricultural and environmental life scientists doubled.

These numbers do not include healthcare, where females represent much higher numbers. In fact, in 2019, 36.3% of physicians and 50.5% of medical students were women. The higher numbers are promising, but we still need to increase STEM equity in other areas. In particular, data science, computer science, and engineering are crucial to every industry and career field in the future, including healthcare.

The disparity we see is often attributed to social bias and lack of representation. Specifically, environments that remain the same from elementary school to the workforce are contributing factors. We can no longer accept institutions built on the assumption that women are not interested in or made for these types of careers. Unfortunately, many of these biases still exist, from how schools provide career guidance to “boys’ clubs” still found in tech careers.

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