Barriers to Closing the STEM Gender Gap
I believe the biggest barrier to closing the gender gap in STEM is the lack of a strong foundation in math, science, and technology education. Women are often incorrectly written off as less capable than men when it comes to STEM subjects. It is an idea instilled in girls from a young age, as educators and others subtly push them towards “more suitable” subjects like writing, literature, and social studies. Because young girls are not encouraged to embrace STEM subjects, they may be hesitant to study them. I believe the best way to reduce fears surrounding STEM fields is to introduce those subjects as early as possible, providing children with a strong foundation and a feeling of comfort regarding STEM.
Moving Women Forward in STEM
I believe that early exposure to STEM subjects will reduce girls’ fears and increase their confidence in STEM subjects—before these fears become too difficult to unlearn or overcome. It would also be extremely beneficial to establish more networking events and opportunities for women to connect with other women in their particular STEM field. Establishing a sense of camaraderie across STEM will allow women to feel more comfortable and perhaps seek out leadership positions—something STEM fields desperately need. More women in STEM leadership positions will lead to more women in STEM.
Where I See Women in STEM in Five Years
In the next five years, I hope to see significantly more female STEM leaders, adding to the number of female mentors and providing guidance and support to women who may be just starting out in their STEM careers. I also believe that education programs encouraging women in STEM will be much more robust, starting with early education and remaining focused on advocating for women to maintain their interest in STEM through the college level and beyond. When I look at the progress women have made since I began my own career in STEM, I have high hopes that we will continue to make significant strides.