STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects are fast becoming areas of significant importance in our world as we know it today. To put it simply, the lessons and advancements that contribute to maintaining and improving global systems and infrastructure are significant. With such a profile attached to their impact, one would potentially not question the need for inspiring more people to become involved in these fields in order to leverage the inherent opportunities. However, looking beyond its nature and impact from an isolated point of view to a wider and more integrated one – an issue is raised: the lack of female representation in these fields.
The foundation of these fields is embedded in education. A report by the UN Educational Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) entitled “Girls’ and women’s education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics’ has gone to show that only 35% of girls globally study these subjects in school and a further 3% of women in tertiary education institutions choose to take up these subjects. Such a harrowing gap can be attributed to how children are socialized from a young age.
Consciously and unconsciously, children are socialized in manners that shape the opportunities that they will feel entitled to as they grow older. It has been well documented that boys and girls tend to be raised with different belief systems of what they should aspire to and how to get there. This is been a problematic way of shaping the way in which young people think about their capabilities.
Girls, in particular, lack role models from whom to draw inspiration in as far as these fields are concerned. For those that have pursued careers in these fields, they have been met with adversity and a constant feeling of needing to be more than what is required in order to stand a chance of being considered for certain positions. Such a journey should not be made more difficult for girls and women but should be encouraged in the pursuit of levelling the playing field and expanding the possibilities that will arise from having a diverse pool of forward-thinking individuals. Such encouragement needs to be given from younger ages in order to inspire belief that can carry girls and women for a lifetime.
Increasing representation in these fields will only do better and will carry society forward at an even more rapid rate. When faced with challenges as the world currently is with the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ll be better equipped with the inclusion of women to expand the resource pool that is capable of innovative and sustainable solutions.