Today, we can all easily agree that basically every profession faces some stereotypes. When considering careers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, a lot of people think that they’re not good enough, as STEM jobs are often perceived as reserved for highly intelligent people, and intelligence as an inborn quality. In addition, not a lot of people today would readily admit that they might think boys are in a better position than girls when it comes to STEM career prospects, but the statistics prove it right.
Despite being in high demand by employers and promising high wages upon graduation, women remain poorly represented in STEM fields. However, according to statistics, this has nothing to do with their intellectual abilities, as it is proven that women actually make up for over half of gifted students in the US. Psychologists think that gender stereotypes have a lot to do with female engagement in STEM jobs. The ones who can achieve the most in changing these stereotypes are parents and primary and secondary school teachers, as they have the biggest influence on early childhood development. Parents are advised to be more careful when it comes to framing ideas to their children. As, along with teachers, they are the ones who can recognize their children’s qualities early and encourage them without gender bias.
Unfortunately, a lot of parents subconsciously put gender restrictions upon their children every day. As scientists perceive intelligence as a developed rather than inborn quality, boys and girls have been proven to have equal odds of developing it. The difference is that boys are treated differently from their earliest childhood, even when it comes to playing. A lot of parents pick construction toys or complex computer games for their boys, and dolls, kitchen or beauty play sets for girls. This is how boys tend to develop problem solving-strategies and better spatial skills (due to computer games) earlier than girls. Similarly, boys and girls tend to be treated differently at school when it comes to grading and progress evaluation.
Teachers, often subconsciously, encourage the stereotype that boys are better at math while girls are better at languages. In addition, the classroom atmosphere in which a lot of girls are afraid of being rejected by their peers (as being good at science and math is often perceived as “nerdy”) makes them reluctant to pursue interests in science or achieve their full potential.
As being well-informed is always a good starting point for making the necessary changes, providing all the necessary information early to children is essential to make sure they make the right life choices when it comes to career. In addition to being encouraged to research the different branches of STEM, children of both genders need to be encouraged to participate in science fairs and projects. In order to pick the right university, students at high school should be advised, by their teachers, to visit universities and colleges in session, as that is the best way for them to get the right picture of the place. Also, a lot of companies and organizations offer summer internships or programs like job shadowing or career days. Spending one working day with people doing the jobs which they would like to have, can provide additional motivation for students. That way, students can get all the necessary information first hand, which they can never find online. However, sometimes a bad financial situation can prevent promising students from pursuing further education. Fortunately, good students have a chance to receive financial supported while studying thanks to various scholarships.
When it comes to girls, the Harding Miller education foundation is offering girls scholarships to girls coming from underprivileged families. Due to poor information, a lot of girl students think STEM jobs are isolated and one-person-centered, which makes them unappealing. Although that might have been the case earlier, with the growth of the IT industry and the development of the field, even the jobs performed by an individual have transformed into teamwork.
Organizing different workshops, presentations and group visits to some successful companies in the field can help the students get a more realistic picture. Also, the young tend to focus on role models. If parents and teachers do not introduce children to the right ones, they are likely to pick the wrong ones, which can sometimes lead to making some very bad life choices. Having that in mind, teachers need to make sure girl students find out the history of many very successful women working and giving their significant contributions in the STEM field, even in the history of the society in whole.
Although the situation in the last few years has improved significantly when it comes to the number of women in the fields of science and technology particularly, STEM jobs in general are still male-dominated. Spreading awareness about the influence of gender stereotypes and the existing statistics about the lack of women in the field, as well as providing useful information about the particular jobs in the field, can encourage a lot of girls to discover their hidden talents and pursue their dream jobs.