Given the tenor of the times, it stands to reason that men and women should be represented equally in the fields of STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. However, for a number of reasons, this has not traditionally been the case. For generations, these disciplines were considered best suited for men, and young women were discouraged from entering them. Although times have changed and there is much more female representation in STEM fields, it’s there’s still a long way to go before reality matches expectations.
Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles for female students trying to enter the world of STEM has been the stereotype that male students are better equipped for these pursuits. The entrenched belief was that men were naturally more inclined to think logically, but this is increasingly understood to be the result of cultural bias and discrimination, rather than biology. In fact, the ratio of boys to girls who score above 700 on the SAT math exam has shrunk dramatically over the last 40 years. In 1980, the ratio was 13 boys to one girl, while today it’s only three to one. This can be attributed to a concerted effort to encourage more girls to apply themselves to math and science over the last few decades.
These changing attitudes are beginning to be felt in the job market, as well. For instance, more than half of the people employed in the field of biology are women. But despite recent advancements, it’s clear there is room for improvement. More than 40% of women with STEM doctorates say they have left related careers because of workplace policies that were unfriendly to families. Additionally, nearly half of women in STEM jobs say gender discrimination is the reason women avoid or leave those fields. For more statistics related to this issue, see the accompanying infographic.
Paul Jirovetz is VP of Operations for devCodeCamp, a software development bootcamp company. Jirovetz, who has several years of experience in the industry, focuses on admissions and placement of students.