Traditionally, engineering, math and science have been male-dominated. However, in recent years, more females are gravitating to these majors and finding positions in various fields. As schools put more of an emphasis on STEM, expect to see even more females entering math and science niches.
Encouraging girls to enter STEM-related fields helps up the number of females in engineering and other fields over time. As young people see role models they can look up to, they start to think they too can become an expert in the industry.
Why Are There So Few Females in Engineering?
According to the American Association of University Women, women make up a mere 28% of those working in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). However, careers in engineering and science can be some of the highest paying ones around. The attractive pay and excellent work-life balance has started attracting more girls in recent years.
In the past, women may have chosen traditional paths such as art, education or social sciences. Just as STEM careers are dominated by men, some jobs, such as teaching were dominated by females for many years.
Even though the opportunities to thrive in any subject are available to everyone, it takes decades to change societal norms and see a shift in numbers. What are some of the reasons girls enter math and science are on the rise?
1. Changing the Norms
It appears both males and females leave high school equally prepared to excel in STEM studies. At the college level, however, less women pursue STEM majors. By year four, men outnumber women in these areas by 80% to 20% in bachelor's degrees.
The issue seems to be mostly cultural, but the trends are shifting toward more and more females ignoring traditional societal limitations and embracing different majors than they might have considered in the past.
Today’s Gen-Zers grew up always having the internet and mobile access. They don’t know a world with limitations as other generations might. They aren’t likely to be held back by the “way things were always done.”
2. Mentoring the Next Generation
The small percentage of women currently in STEM fields are mentoring the next generation of girls into believing they can achieve their dreams. Sherry Washburn of Videojet volunteers with a science outreach program for girls. She helps with an event for elementary girls to introduce them to the possibilities of STEM careers.
Young people interested in STEM careers should look for other females in the industry. Ask them to mentor you and teach you how to gain the skills most needed to be competitive in your field.
3. Rethinking Life
What some call the Great Resignation is actually a Great Rethink about the way we spend our time and whether we’re fairly compensated for work. The difficulties since the pandemic with supplies and the economy have forced a lot of people to rethink the ways they might like to earn a living.
More people are considering whether a college education benefits them as far as a return on investment. STEM careers tend to pay off more quickly and lead to more opportunities than say a social studies degree. A two-year degree in information technology is available at many community colleges for a fraction of the cost of a four-year, traditional university degree.
The world changed a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Expect youth of today to change their outlook on work, education and life in the coming years. More people will look for ways to innovate, strike out on their own and take various fields to new heights as they gain the freedom to experiment and find new methods.
4. Making Coding Fun
Tomorrow's cities will mostly be smart and today's youth will drive the changes. Spending on smart city technology is about $679.5 billion per year. The number of devices connecting to the Internet of Things rises daily. It's smart to teach kids to code early. Fortunately, there are toys and games to help teach them.
Starting coding at a younger age may also be part of what drives more girls toward engineering, math and science these days. Start simple by teaching them a basic coding language and build from there.
5. Trending Upwards
Although the US Census reports 27% of STEM workers are women, it's a consistent gain from 8% in the 70s. While most people would rather see a 50/50 distribution in the field, a completely equal playing field may never be achieved as people are drawn to the careers they find comfortable.
With the increased focus on teaching kids STEM from an early age and ramping up interest in STEM-related careers, the numbers are certain to grow and eventually become more evenly distributed, though. Events such as National STEM/STEAM Day helps ramp up interest in fields such as science and technology.
6. Defining Roles
One thing that might help more females enter engineering, math and science fields is clearly defining which types of careers fall into these areas, such as:
Computer Information Systems
Health Care and Technical Practitioners
Helping young people understand the many ways they can apply their knowledge may drum up more interest in these industries. Schools can offer job shadowing and career fairs to teach students more about various jobs in the STEM sector.
People shouldn’t worry so much about trends but about whether a career in engineering, math and science is right for them. If you don’t love what you do, then it’s hard to excel at it. Anyone can learn to code, solve an equation or draw a blueprint.
However, if you dread every second of the process, you won’t be particularly skilled at the work. Find the niche in STEM you love and learn everything possible before seeking a degree in that area. As long as STEM pays well and offers secure jobs, both sexes will be drawn to careers in the industry.
Guest Post by Eleanor Hecks
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pups, Bear and Lucy.