Gender Gaps in STEM
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It is no secret that there are less women in STEM professions than men. The question is why? Women now account for over 50% of university enrollments in the majority of North American universities, so this gender gap in STEM professions is not a result of a gender gap in university education in general. Rather, this gender gap is a result of many different psychological and societal factors that can be revamped with the right approach. While women are now being appropriately represented in some STEM fields, there are still several fields where women are considerably underrepresented, the most prevalent of which being engineering .
Several factors play into the existence of the gender gap in STEM, and it is important that we as a society work to bridge the gap for various reasons. Computer occupations combined with engineering occupations make up nearly 65% of all STEM jobs  meaning that involvement within these professions offers several job opportunities and lower unemployment rates. Besides the higher wages and the increased number of jobs, in this day and age it is crucial to have diverse perspectives in every industry which is why the underrepresentation of women in many STEM disciplines cannot be simply overlooked.
The environments in which children grow up have a huge impact on their future occupational decisions , so it is of utmost importance that we as a society work to combat STEM stereotypes in order to prevent girls from self-selecting out of male-dominated STEM professions. The myth that boys are innately good at math while girls are not is one that circulates through society to this day. Hearing this, girls internalize the fact that they’re naturally not good at math, resulting in a lack of confidence in their mathematical abilities, ultimately leading them to perform worse than boys on math tests. Also, due to the fact that boys are given toys, such as blocks, that enhance spatial visual skills, they tend to perform better in math than girls as spatial visualization is correlated with mathematical ability. This causes girls to opt out of STEM professions, thus beginning the gender gap in STEM. In addition, many girls don’t want to be in a profession that is male-dominated as they perceive situations in which they are not surrounded by members of their own gender as uncomfortable and intimidating. Therefore, it is essential that children are encouraged to mingle with other children of the opposite gender from a young age so that when the time comes for choosing which occupation to pursue, the representation of gender in that profession does not play into that life-changing decision.
STEM consists of a wide variety of professions which not only contribute to boosting the economy, but also will be increasingly important in the future. Getting involved in STEM offers individuals many opportunities, and everyone, no matter their gender, deserves to have those opportunities. Addressing the gender gap that exists in STEM professions will allow individuals to make more fulfilling career decisions so that they can reach their full potential, while allowing STEM professions as a whole to reach their full potential as well.
Frontiers | The Gender Gap in STEM Fields: The Impact of the Gender Stereotype of Math and Science on Secondary Students’ Career Aspirations | Education (frontiersin.org)
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