Increasing Diversity in STEM
I believe we need to start with parents and schools. To attract more girls to the study of STEM subjects at university and encourage them to enter STEM careers, parents and teachers need to address social stereotypes by fostering a mindset in girls that says, “STEM subjects are for girls too.” Of course, good STEM teaching and good career advice is crucial too.
Another way to encourage girls is to introduce them to female role models in STEM. Schools could invite female scientists, astronauts, doctors, engineers, mathematicians, and other STEM professionals to mentor and inspire girls.
We should also leverage the media, including social media. Online articles and videos that tell inspiring stories of real women who are succeeding in STEM, along with the promotion of STEM programs, could be powerful influences.
Recognizing the Barriers
Cultural factors are a hurdle in closing the gender gap. Chinese culture has long placed greater value on the male sex. Even though the value of the female sex is increasing rapidly in China now, many girls and women are still held back by biases, social norms, and expectations influencing the subjects they study and the careers they pursue.
Official statistics show there are more female than male university graduates in China. And studies from World Economic Forum show that China is one of the countries producing the most STEM graduates. However, women are still underrepresented in STEM education and in STEM careers in China. This is mainly due to unconscious bias, especially among parents and teachers, who assume that girls are less suited to study STEM subjects than are boys. Until we address this bias at the primary and secondary school level, better gender balance will be impossible to achieve.
Women in STEM 5 Years Out
With the advancement of technology, the availability of educational opportunities, more role models, the recognition of the value of diversity, greater awareness of unconscious biases, more women-friendly policies, and flexible work arrangements, I believe we’ll see more and more women thriving in STEM.
How fast the world can progress in this area will depend whether families, schools, companies, media, and governments act with urgency to support girls and women in STEM. Lastly, we all must work to remove gender stereotyping—a barrier that may be the hardest to overcome.