STEM careers: Turning the tide around on gender inequality

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By B. Oliseneku (STEM Ambassador) 

This article explores gender inequality, specifically, women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). To understand how it highlights gender inequality in women’s careers goes beyond the pay gap or the lack of promotion and a minority of women in the boardroom in various corporations. Statistics confirm the paradigm in the labour market, but are industry leaders willing to turn the tide around for good? To reflect diversity in gender and equality in career prospects for women, to represent a standard culture of inclusion. It is the duty of the government, industry leaders and policymakers to change the tide. Once the process has been demonstrated, others will follow suit. Here are some suggestions to tackle gender inequality in the labour market, but not limited to them. The following are recommendations to undo the injustices in the labour market on gender inequality, but not limited to them.

The steps required to integrate more women into STEM careers:

    • Invite women to forum and decision-making processes, recognizing their unique contributions and struggles in the workplace

    • Allow women to contribute to the policy on gender/genderless hiring,

    • Ensure that these policies reflect the contributions of a diversified workforce,

    • Progressive leaders in industries and the government must ensure that these policies are robustly enforced.

When the issues of inequality are examined in-depth, they reverberate with the same pattern of global injustices. These further impact the economy of women, and their social attributes, leading to overall marginalization. A seeming culture of men against women, that compounds marginalized women of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME). The subtle meaning, of the acronym BAME, or black minority ethnic (BME) is a great contention within this group of community. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that change is needed, now, and this is not a request.

“Achievement isn’t why more men are majoring in physics, engineering and computer science

While some STEM majors have a one-to-one male-to-female ratio, physics, engineering and computer science (PECS) majors consistently have some of the largest gender imbalances among U.S. college majors—with about four men to every woman in the major. In a new study published today in the peer-reviewed research journal, Science, NYU researchers find that this disparity is not caused by higher mathematics or science achievement among men. On the contrary, the scholars found that men with very low high-school GPAs in mathematics and science and very low SAT mathematics scores were choosing these mathematics-intensive majors just as often as women with much higher mathematics and science achievement.

“Physics, engineering and computer science fields are differentially attracting and retaining lower-achieving males, resulting in women being underrepresented in these majors but having higher demonstrated STEM competence and academic achievement,” said Joseph R. Cimpian, lead researcher and associate professor of economics and education policy at NYU Steinhardt.

Cimpian and his colleagues analysed data from almost 6,000 U.S. high school students over seven years—from the start of high school into the student’s junior year of college. Male students in the 1st percentile were majoring in PECS at the same rate as females in the 80th percentile. There is a clear academic disparity between female and male students majoring in PECS.



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Source: Free Pixabay images

The researchers also reviewed the data for students who did not intend to major in PECS fields, but later decided to. They found that the lowest-achieving male student was at least as likely to join one of these majors as the highest-achieving female student.

The rich dataset used by the researchers was collected by the U.S. Department of Education, and it contained measures of many factors previously linked to the gender gap in STEM. The NYU team tested whether an extensive set of factors could explain the gender gap equally well among high, average, and low-achieving students. While the gender gap in PECS among the highest achievers could be explained by other factors in the data, such as a student’s prior career aspirations and confidence in their science abilities, these same factors could not explain the higher rates of low-achieving men in these fields. This new work suggests that interventions to improve gender equity need to become more nuanced concerning student achievement.

“Our results suggest that boosting STEM confidence and earlier career aspirations might raise the numbers of high-achieving women in PECS, but the same kinds of interventions are less likely to work for average and lower achieving girls, and that something beyond all these student factors is drawing low-achieving men to these fields,” said Cimpian.

“This new evidence, combined with emerging literature on male-favouring cultures that deter women in PECS, suggests that efforts to dismantle barriers to women in these fields would raise the overall quality of students,” continued Cimpian”. (By New York University)

Do you see your organization as complacent and standing on the kerb? What are the deterrents for implementing a standard industry requirement for equality, diversity and inclusion? Is your organization already doing all it can, and are those steps enough? These are some of the moral and ethical questions; we should all be asking the leaders, in governments and industries. Will you take a stand today, towards changing the narrative for good, and stop being a complacent onlooker? The lives and careers of women are valid. So, acknowledging that women have endured being marginalized in the workplace or career-wise, it is logical that their collective voices be heard.  This will improve the global economy, for good. The way forward is inclusion, diversity and equality in the workplace. What are your thoughts on this issue? Comment and share below.

By Bridget Oliseneku – STEM Ambassador, June 2020
The author is the STEM Ambassador and the co-founder of Amaizonia, a parent company of BuzzCoding.