How the STEM World Is Changing
Barriers are becoming a bit easier to overcome—in particular, there has been a strong push to stop characterizing certain careers and paths of study as being strictly male or female. This goes a long way to fostering curiosity and building a love for science, technology, engineering, and math. Showing women working in all aspects of the STEM fields provides young women and girls with models and inspiration that one such career path could be right for them. Instead of feeling as if they will be the only “girl” in the room, they can know that someone has walked that path before them and, while it may be challenging, it can be done. I am seeing that type of acceptance grow and change, which is a strong step forward.
Moving Women Forward in STEM
We need to start early and rebuild the identities we associate with careers in STEM and with those we identify as being successful in STEM careers. It is important to challenge and change the assumptions and stereotypes associated with various STEM pursuits. There is not one gender, race, or class of person who should be assumed to be successful in any particular field. Highlighting diversity, and working to make it a reality across fields, is incredibly important to encouraging more women to enter STEM fields. Stereotypes create a large barrier for women in STEM careers.
We also need to do more to incorporate application into the teaching of STEM. It is important to not only teach the content of STEM topics, but also to illustrate the variety of applications and contexts in which each can be used. Expanding how we teach and apply STEM education will help lower the barriers faced by those who simply learn better in a hands-on and concrete way.
Women in STEM 5 Years Out
Women will make up a higher percentage of the population working in STEM and will be filling more leadership roles. It is unlikely that we will have achieved full equality in five years, but I believe we will have made significant strides in terms of higher levels of job placement, increased retention, promotions to positions of leadership, and salary equality with our male counterparts. As our communities recognize and support women, and their desire to have both a successful career and a successful personal life, more and more women will participate and thrive in STEM.