Meet Maria Clara. She is a little girl aspiring to be a trailblazer in STEM. Her dream since she was young was to enter the field of computer science and make it more equitable for all the women out there. But there is something stopping her- the gender gap. Well, why does the gender gap still exist? There are several key factors that cause STEM gaps between genders (American Association of University Women, 2022), such as:
- gender stereotypes
- male-dominated cultures
- fewer role models, and
- math anxiety.
Gender stereotypes are enforced at a young age, even as young as preschool, by the societal underestimation of girls’ math abilities.
Cimpian et al. (2016) discovered that teachers would rate the mathematical proficiency of girls lower than their male counterparts, despite having similar achievements and learning behaviors.
Math teachers, predominantly women, often pass their math anxiety to their female students by having a higher standard of grading on girls than on boys. This stereotype further develops the idea that STEM is a more masculine field. As such, they are often not supportive of women and minorities in workplaces and universities due to a lack of women studying and working in these fields.
Based on the Pew Research Center’s survey, Funk and Parker (2020) explain that 50% of women in STEM-related fields have experienced gender discrimination at work.
Due to STEM workplaces becoming less enticing for women, girls who dream of working in a STEM field often grow up with fewer role models, as they are provided with limited examples of female scientists and engineers in the media they consume.
As such, it then becomes crucial that we close this gap.
The AAUW provides several ways to aid in closing the gap. Here are some simple but concrete steps to tackle the huge gender gap.
- Provide girls and women with the empowerment and educational opportunities to pursue STEM. They must be equipped with the materials and venues to succeed in STEM.
- Uplift young girls by giving them strong and visible women role models in their respective fields.
- Encourage girls to take more science and math classes to improve the quality of STEM education. Integrate an awareness of possible career opportunities for women in STEM by providing them educational resources to explore the vast possibilities in STEM.
- Push for more diverse and inclusive courses in STEM that cater to women. Advocate for courses designed to reduce the systematic inequalities and barriers women face in STEM like sexual harassment and discrimination.
- Build intentionally inclusive and healthy work environments where women can retain their jobs and even further excel in their respective fields.
After years of encountering these barriers, Maria Clara began taking these active steps to break the gender gap. Through the years, she still encountered many hurdles and obstacles in her STEM journey but always bounced back stronger. She also met thousands of girls all over the world with diverse sets of interests but the same dream of hers- to ensure every girl in the world can pursue STEM fearlessly. Now, she is a successful computer scientist. Aside from working full-time as a computer scientist, she dedicates her life to educating, inspiring, and empowering women in STEM.
WRITTEN BY GABBIE BAUTISTA AND MAEGAN NOCHE
EDITED BY ALAIN TAVITA
GRAPHICS BY REY SANCHEZ
American Association of University Women. (2022, March 3). The STEM Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. AAUW : Empowering Women Since 1881. https://www.aauw.org/resources/research/the-stem-gap/
Cimpian, J. R., Lubienski, S. T., Timmer, J. D., Makowski, M. B., & Miller, E. K. (2016). Have Gender Gaps in Math Closed? Achievement, Teacher Perceptions, and Learning Behaviors Across Two ECLS-K Cohorts. AERA Open, 2(4), 233285841667361. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858416673617
Funk, C., & Parker, K. (2020, August 21). Women and Men in STEM Often at Odds Over Workplace Equity. Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2018/01/09/women-and-men-in-stem-often-at-odds-over-workplace-equity/