Women are making meaningful headway in STEM fields. Read on to learn more about the challenges women are overcoming and the opportunities that are helping close the gender gap.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
It’s no secret that STEM professions, shaped by years of gender and racial bias and discrimination, lack diversity. Despite accounting for more than half of all graduates from biomedical sciences university programs, around 40% of all physical sciences and technologies courses, and a third of all computer science masters’ programs, only 27% of STEM jobs and engineering occupations in the United States are held by women.
But progress, although slow, is being made. Companies are waking up to the fact that lacking diversity doesn’t just look bad, it adversely affects the bottom line. When STEM occupations don’t include women at all levels, algorithms can skew toward the biases of the dominant group, interpretations of data insights don’t have the benefit of different points of view, and companies building products and services for everyone end up with glaring blind spots.
In a quest for diversity and inclusion, organizations and industry leaders are addressing the gender disparity in the engineering workforce by bolstering STEM education enrollment among historically underrepresented groups, overhauling outdated hiring and recruitment practices that have created barriers to entry for women, and creating opportunities, resources, and support networks for female students and scientists.
Whether it’s software engineering, data science, machine learning research, or UX/UI design, women in STEM fields are finally beginning to see institutional as well as grassroots support.
Don’t forget to check out our pages on women in different STEM careers.
Several factors stand in the way of gender equality in STEM fields. Below are a number of key research-backed findings on the ways women continue to be held back from entering, staying, and advancing in STEM professions.
While the number of men far outnumber the number of women in STEM occupations, the stats have gradually improved in recent years. Below are the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Percentage of women in STEM fields:
Many of the challenges that stand in the way of women building long and satisfying careers in STEM are systemic and have proven difficult for organizations to dismantle. But researchers have identified several strategies that can have an immediate and meaningful impact on the working lives of women in STEM.
For those considering careers in STEM but are intimidated or feel like they might not find their footing, women currently working in STEM have the following advice:
“The biggest piece of advice I have for anyone is to ask for help,” said Emily Bailey, a data scientist at Uber. “When you have a goal in front of you, it can be daunting to see how big it is, so the first place I tend to ask for help is: how do I break this up into smaller pieces? And then, even if the first piece is hard, you can ask for help every step of the way if you need to.”
“Every software engineer struggles a lot, even if they don’t show it,” Anna Carey, a software engineer at Artsy said in a blog post. “If I could shake my 18-year-old self, full of self-doubt and about to give up on computer science for what she thought would be forever, I would tell her: You have everything you need to make it as an engineer if you’re ready to persist when you feel lost and become really good at Google.”
A growing number of organizations have thrown their support behind achieving gender diversity and parity in STEM, namely through offering scholarships, fellowships, grants, and outreach programs. Higher education STEM scholarships in fields such as mathematics, computer science, statistics, biology, physics, chemistry, engineering, and data science are available for those pursuing undergraduate degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorate degrees. There are also paid internship programs that support young women and other newcomers who are entering the STEM workforce and require additional professional workplace support and hands-on experience.
On the online courses/bootcamp front, Springboard has partnered with Women Who Code to offer ten scholarships worth $1,000 each to women who enroll in Springboard’s Data Science Career Track, Software Engineering Career Track, or the Machine Learning Career Track.
Springboard also offers a number of women-in-tech scholarships.
Women in the United States made up 27% of the STEM workforce in 2019.
Here is how the U.S. compares to other countries:
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