Thu, 29 Feb, 2024




By Kripali Sharma Poudel

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The STEM professions have been lacking diversity for a long time. Women seem to be underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Even after having the required knowledge and degrees, they are still not given work and paid according to their skills and capabilities. But why are women held back from the opportunities they deserve? This is due to biases, social norms, and gender discrimination that prevail in our society.   

There is no doubt that there has been a lack of women’s empowerment in STEM fields. Statistics show that only 47.7% of women are involved in the field of Biological Sciences, 42.5% in Chemists and Material Science, 25.8% in Computer and Mathematics occupations, 15.7% as Engineers and Architects, and only 12.2% as Board members of information and technology companies. This depicts the under-representation of women in STEM professions.

According to UNESCO, only 35% of STEM students in higher education globally are women. Such huge disparities and inequalities do not happen by chance. They have been deep-rooted in our society for a very long time. This gender disparity is alarming, especially because STEM careers are often referred to as the jobs of the future, driving innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth, and sustainable development. As a result, the under-representation of women in STEM puts a detrimental brake on sustainable development.

According to Springboard, when STEM occupations don’t include women at all levels, algorithms can skew towards the biases of the dominant group. Interpretations of data insights do not have the benefit of different points of view. Companies building products and services for everyone results in glaring blind spots. They might not be able to diversify their products and services and end up missing out on meeting their customers’ expectations. This portrays how important it is to create equal opportunities and empower women in the field of STEM.

Even though the number of women in STEM fields is growing, men still seem to outnumber women in these professions. The huge gender pay gap, stereotypes, and male-dominated culture are a few reasons for this. The negative stereotypes have seemed to lower the aspirations of girls in pursuing STEM careers. Most people associate science and math fields with males, underestimating the abilities of women. When a woman is competent and does better in a “masculine” job, she is considered to be less likable. The amount of respect and appreciation a woman gets is so much less than that for a man. This biasness causes a strong negative influence on a woman’s confidence, makes her question herself, and affects her progress and participation.

In order to get more women in STEM fields, it is necessary to provide mentorship and support to girls from a young age. Mentors play a crucial part in career development because of the insight, guidance, and support they provide. The persisting gender stereotype should be addressed. Girls should be encouraged more to be involved in STEM education and careers. There should be more supportive workplaces that prioritize work/life flexibility, offer parental leave, are transparent about salaries and promotions, and address their male-dominated, exclusionary cultures. Awareness should be enhanced about the importance of STEM education so that more girls and women pursue it. With proper guidance and support, more women can be empowered in the field of STEM. 

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