Women in STEM
- Students of both sexes rate male professors higher than female professors.
- Teachers of both sexes favor male students over female students.
- Female lecturers are rated lower than their male counterparts by both men and women, although the disparity is greater in evaluations done by men.
- Men underestimate the academic performance of their female peers.
- Mothers are less likely to be recommended for hire, promotion, and management than fathers, and mothers receive lower starting salaries than fathers, who are perceived as being more committed to their work.
Growing Need for Tech Talent Means More STEM Opportunities for Women
- In 2013, only 26% of computer professionals were women, which is far fewer than 30 years earlier and reflects about the same level of representation as in 1960. Women comprised only 12% of working engineers in 2013.
- The decline is all the more dire because computing and engineering offer the greatest potential for career opportunities in STEM, accounting for more than 80% of all STEM employment.
Enhanced Support in Schools and Workplaces for Women and Girls in STEM
- Training and workshops that attempt to counter the gender bias in STEM are becoming more prevalent.
- Awareness of the contributions of women in STEM history is increasing.
- Mentorships and employee resource groups help to counter the isolation many women experience in their first years in STEM careers.
- Parents and families
- Teachers, counselors, and school administrators
- School curriculum decision-makers
- Researchers and industry leaders
- Legislators and policymakers
Bright Career Outlook for Women in STEM
Tips for Taking a STEM Career to the Highest Levels
- Exude confidence.
- Claim credit when deserved.
- Cultivate peer networks.
- Serve as a mentor for other women in STEM.
- Be your true self.
- Take pride in your successes, particularly in how they solve real-world problems.
- Develop useful skills.
- Advance to the next level of the field.
- Believe in your ability to have a successful career.
The Women Who Lead the STEM Field, and How They Got There
- Lady Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was born in 1815. From an early age, Lady Lovelace was trained by her “mathematics-loving” mother, Annabella Milbanke, “in a strict regimen of science, logic, and mathematics,” according to Sydney Padua on the site Finding Ada. Lady Lovelace met Charles Babbage while she was still in her teens, and she took a special interest in Babbage’s proposed analytical engine, a mechanical computing machine considered by many to be the first modern computer. The device was never fully built, but plans show it was based on a punch card operating system. An article written by Lady Lovelace described the analytical engine and its punch card system. In the article, Lady Lovelace predicted the enormous potential of computer technology. Included in Lady Lovelace’s article were the first “computer programs.”
- In 1922, Edith Clarke became the first professional female electrical engineer in the U.S. Clarke was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015.
- Dr. Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in space when she joined a nine-day mission of the Discovery space shuttle in 1993. Dr. Ochoa was the second woman and first Hispanic to serve as director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
- In her 44-year career as a computer scientist, Rear Admiral Grace Hopper developed COBOL and other computer languages written in English rather than mathematical notation. Admiral Hopper is considered the inventor of the modern programming language.
- The contributions of Katherine Johnson to space exploration cannot be overstated. In addition to calculating the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s historic flight as the first American in space, Johnson did the same calculations for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969.
- The publication in 1964 of marine biologist and environmentalist Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” is now seen as the beginning of the modern environmental movement.
- Jennifer Pahlka is the founder and executive director of Code for America, a nonprofit that aims to “change how we participate in government.” Pahlka co-founded the United States Digital Service in 2014, and from 2013 to 2014 was the U.S. deputy chief technology officer. Earlier in her career, Pahlka served as an executive in the computer game industry. She is also a proponent of the maker movement that encourages people to “mash up” and “tinker” with the devices and technologies in their lives.
- Dr. Jedidah Isler, the first African-American woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Yale University, is a leader in the study of “supermassive, hyperactive” black holes as well as a leading advocate promoting inclusiveness in STEM.
- Dr. Jean Bennett is a professor of ophthalmology at the Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics for the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Bennett is a pioneer in the field of gene therapy and is featured in the PBS documentary “The Gene Doctors.”
- Dr. Fran Bagenal chairs NASA’s Outer Planet Assessment Group and serves as professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder. When she joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in 1977, Dr. Bagenal was the first female scientist to be employed at the facility.
- In 2014, mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani of Stanford University became the first woman to be awarded a Fields medal by the International Mathematical Union. The Fields medal is considered the greatest honor in mathematics. Mirzakhani was selected for her research on dynamics and geometry, particularly in “celestial mechanics,” such as mapping how the sun, the moon, and Earth interact.
- Jacinta Yap is a Ph.D. student and Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellow at the University of Liverpool’s QUASAR group, where she studies proton therapy, an innovative cancer treatment that promises to be more effective than conventional radiotherapy.
Resources for STEM Leadership Development
- The Center for Creative Leadership’s Patty Burke describes in “Leadership Development Training for Women in STEM Careers” a program that is intended to increase the percentage of STEM management positions held by women, in part by reversing the growing “quit rate” of women who abandon their STEM careers.
- In “How to Inspire More Young Women to Enter STEM in 2018,” Moira Forbes interviews four female engineering students at New York University about their advice for girls and women interested in STEM. The women won the recent $50,000 Idea Incubator grant competition to improve “access to reliable, safe, and affordable transportation” for women and girls. Their advice includes being confident and curious, taking advantage of your unique perspectives, finding female role models, and not worrying about not being a math whiz.
- Dataconomy’s Valarie Romero lists “Three Traits That Make Women Perfect Leaders in STEM”: personalized mentorship, emotional intelligence, and communication.
- “Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing” is an extensive report issued by the American Association of University Women in 2015. Written by Christianne Corbett and Catherine Hill, the report examines gender bias in college environments and in workplaces. The authors have many recommendations for employers, men and women working in engineering and computing, parents, girls, educators, colleges and universities, and policymakers.
Resources for Further Learning and Professional Growth
- Women in STEM Resources describes itself as “a repository … for those interested in learning about the challenges facing women and minorities in science.”
- The Society of Women Engineers collects the latest reports, posts, and podcasts on Research and Trends for Women in STEM. A recent entry describes research on boosting the success of female community college students who transfer to baccalaureate STEM programs.
- “The Untold History of Women in Science and Technology” compiles audio recordings of women in government telling the histories of their own heroes in STEM.
- Futurity offers a guide that describes “How to Make STEM More Inclusive of Black Women.” Written by Cailin Riley-Missouri, the guide covers such subjects as how to identify and address “micro-aggressive behaviors” that reflect “implicit biases.”
- “Bridging the Digital Gender Divide: Include, Upskill, Innovate” is a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that emphasizes the importance of STEM education and higher expectations for girls aged 15 and younger.
- STEM Women is a blog created to “make women in STEM more visible to the public” and to “promote careers for women in STEM.”
- STEMinist Profiles highlights the stories of successful women from diverse backgrounds who work in a variety of STEM fields, including student researchers, entrepreneurs, founders of nonprofits, government officials, and business executives.