For some time now, women have been statistically underrepresented in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
This trend is particularly troubling, as STEM fields are aching for qualified workers. The cyber security industry, as an example, is a field that has grown to be particularly important in today’s technological age, yet a mere 11% of women have chosen to pursue careers in this field.
It’s a trend that is reflected in a majority of STEM programs, but the lack of women in these fields has little to do with their educational attainment. As today, women maintain a 60% majority in undergraduate classrooms, and over 41% of STEM related Ph.D.s are earned by women.
Furthermore, in many of these fields, women weren’t always a minute demographic. In the mid-1980s, for example, the computer programming industry was 37% female. By 2010, that number had decreased by over 20%.
What can companies do to combat this trend?
Women pushed out of STEM
While women have progressed societally in a number of ways, in the STEM sector, women are not only underrepresented but feel as though they’re being pushed out or, in drastic cases, demeaned or endangered.
‘Women who enter fields dominated by men often feel this way,’ New York Times journalist, Claire Cain Miller writes.
‘They love the work and want to fit in. But then something happens – a slight or major offense – and they suddenly feel like outsiders. The question for newcomers to a field has always been when to play along and when to push back.’
For others, the culture is so toxic that it’s not a matter of speaking up, it’s a matter of tolerating sexism or leaving the industry altogether.
‘A lot of times [the sexism I’ve experienced] makes me want to leave,’ programmer Ashe Dryden notes. ‘
‘But it’s hard because this is basically the only field that I’ve ever known. And is it right for me to have to leave when I’m not creating the problem?’
In order to attract and retain more women in STEM fields, it’s this culture that needs to be addressed. According to a study by the Center for Talent Innovation, STEM fields would drastically benefit from first tackling three basic problems in the industry.
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