Women in STEM Careers: Why the Disconnect?

STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education

With April being Mathematics Awareness Month—a celebration and appreciation of all things math—many people are focusing on it as a career path, and hoping this awareness will lead to young people pursuing careers in mathematics and science. Organizers are hoping they can place an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and get the workforce of the future interested.

Following Women’s History Month (this past March), many people are also questioning why less and less young women are choosing to pursue STEM careers. As universities and researchers are finding, it is not because women are less qualified, nor is it because women are simply not as good at math and science as men are.

Rather interestingly, they’re finding just the opposite. After studying 1,490 high school seniors, then following up with them 15 years later, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan found that unlike many males, the females were equally good at both math and verbal skills, and were then choosing careers outside of STEM fields. This made them curious as to why, and what could be done to change that.

One idea was to refocus the perception and stereotypes associated with math. Changing the way of thinking that makes women think math-related fields are male dominated and not family-friendly. Showing young women the positive impact they can have on math and science, as well as the impact math and science can have on them. Providing them with positive female STEM role models and, in essence, shaking things up. They suggest that educators and employers can take part in this redirection and help bring more women into STEM roles, which would be mutually beneficial for both the women and the employers.

What do you think can be done?