A mentoring program created by women engineering students at Georgia Institute of Technology to train and empower the next generation of girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is bearing fruit, underscoring the importance of fostering community and having role models in order to support women pursuing STEM degrees and careers.
If the creators of the girls-only online cybersecurity competition Girls Go CyberStart are successful, some of these high schoolers will get hooked on the quickly expanding and well-paying field of cybersecurity and, in the process, help offset one of technology’s deepest gender gaps: Just 11 percent of cybersecurity professionals today are women.
One woman who is successful in a traditionally male industry, Azita Martin, CMO of Maana.io, spoke with me to share her advice on what it takes to succeed in STEM fields. Her first piece of advice is one that many business women have heard before but carries added weight in STEM fields: speak up,but make sure you have done your research and backup your opinion with data.
America's largest companies have a long way to go before they can achieve equal pay -- the National Women's Law Center reports American women make $0.80 for men's $1.00-- but companies like General Motors and PepsiCo are making changes that pay women and men equally for the same work and foster pathways to higher-paying leadership positions.
Barilka has a theory about why girls’ participation wanes. Middle school turns into a more social environment for girls around seventh grade, she said. They start to care more about what people think and are less willing to put themselves in a situation where they can fail or not have the right answers, she said. Girls start to show an aversion to math and science in middle school, echoed Earle. “It’s cultural,” he said, adding most of the time the girls excel in the fields.
For years, girls and young women have been a critical missing part of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) studies and careers. The stubborn gender disparity in STEM fields has sparked important debates on the underlying reasons. Some attribute the gender disparity to social and infrastructural factors, lack of mentors and role models, and lack of awareness about what these fields offer in terms of educational and career opportunities.
On the whole, more women are going into STEM fields than ever before--but STEM, as we already know, is an abbreviation that makes up several different academic disciplines (in this case, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). And while women are definitely applying to STEM majors in general, computer science is a field that hasn't exactly broken major ground when it comes to diversity.
A study by a team of researchers from Dartmouth, the University at Buffalo and Carnegie Mellon University has found that gender affects an individual’s perception of women’s anxiety in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Men are more likely than women to attribute this anxiety and self-doubt to internal factors, while women usually attribute such emotions to external factors.
As awareness of bias has increased, so too have efforts to address the subtle ways in which women find their work devalued. But in many institutions, women still struggle to get male peers and supervisors to acknowledge the problem.
Schappach and Zapata-Ramirez are two of 120 women enrolled in WCSU’s biology program, where female students account for about 58 percent of the total. But while women represent the majority of students in life sciences, they are still underrepresented in most of the other STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This year at WCSU, women account for just 36.5 percent of those enrolled in STEM programs.