STEM: Ungendered

Article Written by Alaina Kristine C. Edrada
Illustration by Matthew Profeta
Posted 29 March 2022

Junior high school was when the competitiveness of all students started reeking. Everyone wanted to be president in class, batch or club, group projects were dreadful, lunch time was spent studying at the last minute for quizzes, people were gatekeeping notes, and after each term passed, all that was heard was “What grade did you get?”, “Who is the top one?”, “Why is my score so low?”, “How did they earn a perfect mark?” Throughout those defining four years of my life, I was just like everyone else, exactly like every other girl. Those girls were everywhere. They were head of clubs, varsity members, pull-out class students, first honors, and more. But the question remains, where do these same intelligent and talented girls go after high school?

The same question is asked in regards to STEM.  Why aren’t those girls that excelled in science and math subjects present in STEM-related careers? 

Only 28% of jobs involving science, math, and technology are covered by women. [1] This information is not at all surprising to many as women have been extremely underrepresented in these areas for centuries. As always, the common comments always flow along the lines of “Boys are smarter than girls,” and the ignorant bunch that supports these claims continue to stand their ground even if scientific research has proven them wrong. In a recent study, a group of Australian researchers concluded that girls outperform boys in all subjects, yes, this includes math and science, after observing 1.6 million students ranging from elementary to college. [2] This puts to shame a study from the 1990s which states the opposite. [3] 

Even then, findings like these are clearly not enough to keep girls in STEM. The gender gap has been a constant for so long, people have been getting used to it. But seeing that STEM programmes for women have also not been easy to access, why would they bother to try entering a field if they are clearly not going to be given the same opportunities as their male counterparts. With this being said, here are three reasons why we need to curate more STEM programmes that are geared towards women.

First, it promotes inclusivity. Girls need to feel that they have options to choose from because seeing that their gender is not presented enough in STEM careers causes many of them to think that they have no place in these fields at all. From a young age, representation molds the way children develop their own judgment for certain subjects. As there are still kids that picture only men as doctors and women as nurses, it is clear that gender representation needs to be attended to both in workplaces and by the media. 

Girls have the capacity and ability to learn just as much as boys, but without proper exposure to these opportunities from childhood, it will seem like their choices are limited and their futures have already been planned and written out for them.

Next, diversity will become more evident and more views will be gained. Everyone comes from different walks of life, and the opinions that they produce are based on these unique experiences. In STEM careers, manpower is most appreciated because different outcomes, both positive and negative, can be discovered from tinkering even the smallest aspects. Here, specific views are needed in order to effectively test out the accuracy of certain products, algorithms, and projects.

When testing the comfortability of sanitary napkins, isn’t it best to get the thoughts of women on these products? In performing research on motherhood, shouldn’t females be given the spotlight? Diversity works hand in hand with inclusivity in assuring that a variety of views on certain topics can be gathered and observed. Both men and women will be given the chance to use their takes to make space for more possibilities and better calculated outcomes. In moments like these, more is always beneficial, and what better way to strengthen the grounds of STEM than by giving women a chance to take the wheel, build stable foundations, and to use their knowledge. In this manner, there is nothing to lose, we all win.

Lastly, gender-related issues can be further minimized. A recent research conducted consisted of two girls with similar grades that were observed from the start of secondary school to the end of high school. One was placed in a class with students that excelled more than her in STEM subjects while the latter’s classmates shared similar grades with her. In the end, the former had a lower chance of choosing a career in STEM. Why? This was due to the fact that her teachers did not instill in her the confidence to gain academic strength just like her peers in subjects such as math and science simply because they have fallen victim to gender stereotypes. Girls like her weren’t given much help and attention when learning STEM subjects due to stereotypes which assume that women are more “fit” for jobs that involve reading, writing, and caretaking while men work effectively in more “logical” careers which include math and science. [2] 

In relation to this, the wage gap is embarrassingly wide when the only difference the two groups have is their gender. The goal has always been to break boundaries, and knowing that women are readily available to get the job done as much as men, it is only fitting that they get the same chances in employment. 

At the end of the day, increasing STEM programmes for women will benefit everyone. It is such a shame to realize many are still blinded by the standards and stereotypes that were plainly built upon misogyny and insecurity. Everyone says that “the only thing constant is change,” yet we have constantly let this issue stay by our side for centuries, ever unchanging. The statistics and numbers we see is solid proof and reflection of how much work needs to be done in order to make STEM one that welcomes all.

As the world continues to release its potential, women helped make the development possible because women are women and STEM is STEM. This should not have been a problem in the first place because from the start, it has been a fact that STEM has no gender. STEM is for everyone.

References

  1. The STEM gap: Women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics [Internet]. AAUW : Empowering Women Since 1881. 2020 [cited 2022 Mar 28]. Available from: https://www.aauw.org/resources/research/the-stem-gap/
  2. Fox M. Girls get better grades than boys, even in STEM subjects, study finds [Internet]. NBC News. 2018 [cited 2022 Mar 28]. Available from: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/girls-get-better-grades-boys-even-stem-subjects-study-finds-n912891
  3. The Conversation. STEM careers: Why girls are less likely to pick them [Internet]. Study International. 2020 [cited 2022 Mar 28]. Available from: https://www.studyinternational.com/news/stem-careers-women/

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