#YesSheCan Talks Women In STEM

In this #YesSheCan blog we are talking about women in STEM, exploring the factors that may discourage them from pursuing careers in these industries. We also explore about the impacts of the lack of diversity and inclusion on STEM industries.
Underrepresentation of Women in STEM Subjects
In 2018, the STEM Equity Monitor conducted a study that revealed concerning disparities in the representation of women within STEM subjects across both university and Vocational Education and Training (VET) sectors.
They discovered that women made up only 21% of all enrolments and 23% of all graduates in STEM courses.  On the other hand, women made up a substantially larger percentage of students in non-STEM courses—60% of all enrolments and 61% of all completions during the same period.
According to more recent data (2022/23) from Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), 31% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women or non-binary.
From these statistics it’s clear that there is a gender gap and underrepresentation of women in STEM industries, but why?
Heavily Male-Dominated Field & Lack of Role Models
The heavily male-dominated nature of the STEM industry, in which just over 1 in 4 STEM workers are women, presents a significant barrier.
Without visible female role models, many aspiring women struggle to envision themselves in STEM careers, hindering their confidence and aspirations.
Stereotypes and Perceptions
Unfortunately, many negative stereotypes and perceptions persist regarding women in STEM, often portraying girls as less capable in these fields or labelling STEM professionals as “nerdy” or socially awkward.
These misconceptions can discourage women from pursuing STEM careers and contribute to a negative view of STEM careers.
Educational and Cultural Factors
In terms of education, a lack of awareness and encouragement shown to girls in school to study STEM subjects can discourage women from pursuing STEM careers, influencing girls’ perceptions of their own abilities and interest in STEM subjects from an early age.
Culturally, societal expectations and norms may discourage girls from pursuing STEM careers, instead steering them towards traditionally “feminine” fields.  
Gender Bias and Discrimination
Although there has been progression regarding women in STEM professions over the years, gender bias and discrimination are still present within the industry, creating an unwelcoming, unfair and intimidating environment for women.
For example, BizWomen say that ‘1 in 10 women in STEM are paid less than their male counterparts’ and ‘55% of women have been “quietly promoted” (i.e., given more responsibilities without a change in title or pay).’
It can sometimes be the case where it is not that we are incapable of performing in a certain role but rather lack belief in ourselves.
This can result in two things happening:
First, social belongingness. This means teenagers, in particular, felt they would fit better into subjects where more of their own gender already worked / studied.
Secondly, self-efficacy. This is the belief in your ability to succeed. So, you approach spaces in which you feel you would be competent and avoid those in which you think you would not be. This could be due to several factors but studies have shown that a lack of role models and our own preconceptions about a career can hold us back.
This doesn’t mean you’re not efficient, but phenomenons such as Imposter Syndrome and bias in recruitment or the pay gap can make individuals believe they’re not, even if they’re fully qualified.
Why we need women in STEM
It’s important that we encourage and support women in STEM as they have a significant impact on the STEM industry. By neglecting to do this we miss out on opportunities for innovation and advancement.
Here are some examples of why we need women in STEM industries:
  • Bringing Diversity – Women bring unique perspectives and experiences to STEM fields. Diverse teams are more effective when tackling complex challenges that are presented in STEM professions.
  • Increasing the Talent Pool – Encouraging women to pursue STEM careers allows a broader talent base, addressing skill shortages and benefiting industries and societies.
  • Role Models and Inspirations – Women in STEM serve as role models and inspire future generations of girls and young women to pursue their interests in STEM. They break stereotypes and encourage diversity in STEM fields.
  • Addressing Bias and Inequality – More diverse representation in STEM fights gender bias, creating fairness and inclusivity in workplaces.
Embracing diversity and creating inclusivity in STEM is crucial for innovation. Let’s empower women to excel in STEM and shape a more inclusive future!
If you are a leader or employer and want to improve your working environment for women in STEM, click here or if you want to find inspiring Role Models in STEM careers, click here!
This blog was written by Nia Mthethwa, a Media Communications and Culture student at Nottingham Trent University while on her #YesSheCan Work Experience Placement.

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