Opinion editorials, reviews and personal essays
By Jason Kang
There’s a common stereotype that STEM careers are only for males. Much has changed since the rise and boom of science and technology in the past few decades, but this common belief has persisted. In 1987, roughly 20% of the Canadian STEM workforce was comprised of women. Today, three decades later, it has only risen to 22%.
In any science, technology, engineering, or mathematics related field, the gender inequality is apparent: the vast majority of these professions is occupied by males. For example, even though females account for roughly 60% of all graduates in the United States, they only account for 35% of STEM related degrees. Although a significant part of that could be associated with gender discrimination at the hiring phase, that’s not the focus today. There is a very real, very significant difference in interests between genders when it comes to STEM careers.
Take the FIRST Robotics Competition team at SAS, for example. Out of nearly 40 members, there is only a single female engineer. It seems as though females have less interest in STEM topics. This lack of interest can be attributed to social pressures and a resultant lack of experience with science. There is a well-established stereotype that girls usually involve themselves with arts and the humanities while STEM careers are left to the boys. That difference is apparent even at our own school. In contrast to the male majority in the robotics team, there is an overwhelming female majority in SAS' National Arts Honor Society and even in Pudong Press.
Early on, young girls are discouraged from learning more about science related topics outside of the classroom. Many feel the need to adhere to the division of interests that has been established. As such, girls will have less experience with STEM subjects early on, preventing their curiosities in related fields to develop.
There is a lack of exposure to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics early on in young women because of well-established stereotypes against women in STEM careers. As a result, women are discouraged from pursuing any interest they may have had in said topics, leading to a lack of interest later on in life, which only further contributes to the stereotype. There’s no question that the situation has been improving in recent years, which is definitely a sign of social progress, but it does not change the fact that the divide persists. Social expectations of what women can and cannot pursue as careers results in a vicious cycle that is unlikely to leave anytime soon.
Evidently, this is unfair to women who aren’t given the encouragement they need to develop their interests in STEM careers. Beyond that, however, everyone loses out from the massive amount of brilliance that is lost by not encouraging women to pursue their passions, regardless of any common, long held beliefs.
Whether it be at SAS or somewhere else, encouraging women to pursue STEM careers makes our world a better place.