The future shows great promise for students who pursue careers in the STEM field, and the demand for people with a background in subjects such as computer science and engineering is increasing each year.
Unfortunately, one of the greatest challenges that we face as a society is the gender disparity within STEM subjects. Millions of female students are not given the chance to develop their skills within this field, and they miss out on the opportunity to become change-makers.
Understanding the Gender Gap Within STEM Education
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over 125 million middle and high school aged girls in developing countries are not attending school.
Interestingly enough, girls in the middle school level of their education are more likely to achieve the minimum proficiency levels (MPL) within math and science than boys. That being said, adolescent girls are not reaching the high school levels of their education where STEM skills are more rigorously taught.
What are the reasons behind this gender disparity?
Girls are reported to have less confidence in their abilities as STEM students. Although they may value the subjects as much as boys do, their hesitancy creates a snowball effect of disengagement from STEM courses, leading to a lower level of interest and involvement.
Gender stereotypes are largely responsible for female students' hesitancy to enter into STEM careers.
Society continues to view roles such as Astronauts, Computer Programmers and Engineers as masculine, teaching girls from a young age that those spaces are not for them, thus installing a lack of confidence in their abilities within those relevant STEM subjects.
This ultimately means that fewer girls aspire to have careers within science, technology, or engineering, even amongst the top performing students.
Therefore, with fewer girls entering STEM fields, a male-oriented culture is perpetuated. This creates the cyclical nature of the gender disparity problem within STEM. But what can we do to fix this?
Let’s close the STEM gap!
It is entirely possible to bring equality into the STEM field, and it is happening right now!
There are certain steps that we can take - as employees, educators, officials, and parents - to rebalance the gender disparity in STEM.
Here is what we need to do:
1. Encourage girls and help build confidence in their ability and skills in key STEM subjects.
- Let it be known that girls are just as capable as boys to study STEM.
- Provide girls with the same educational opportunities and levels of encouragement as boys.
- Promote a mindset that allows for growth and development.
- Share examples of successful women within the STEM field as a source of inspiration.
2. Provide girls with a substantial education early on and through K-12 to ensure their participation and interest.
- Emphasize the professional development of teachers within STEM courses.
- Encourage girls to take STEM classes early on.
- Educate girls on the future opportunities that they will have within the STEM field; use role models and mentoring programs to heighten involvement.
3. Continue to attract, recruit, and retain women in higher levels of STEM education.
- Reorganize working environments to be more inclusive and collaborative.
- Prioritize relationship-building between trainees and faculty.
- Promote mentorship and networking programs that can aid in the success of women within the STEM field.
4. Improve the hiring process and promotion pathways for women.
- Recruit women that can help train other women within the field for strong advancement pipelines and professional development.
- Promote healthy work environments that include flexibility, equal pay, inclusivity, networking, and anti-discrimination policies.
Offering Equal Learning Opportunities Through pi-top
We want to help teachers by providing engaging and interactive learning experiences for every student. We know how important it is to foster a sense of creativity, problem solving, collaboration, and flexibility at an early age. Our project kits and lesson plans will encourage your students to think outside the box and explore exciting new concepts of STEM.
At pi-top, we want to encourage students to develop a passion for computer science. We believe that every student should be a lifelong learner in order to have a strong foundation for a rewarding and successful job in any field. If you are looking for more resources, including courses, projects, products, and community discussions, check out our website.