As you see here, society tells us that technology is a place for males. We start this narrative at a young age, saying to young boys, shoot for the stars (literally). The illusion that technology is an exclusive boys club might start in the toy box, but it is regularly reinforced over time through entertainment, advertising, and pop culture.
A survey conducted by Microsoft found that young girls start showing interest in STEM subjects at age 11 and then lose it again by age 15. While the study couldn't name just one reason for the loss of interest, it did show that lack of female role models in STEM-based careers, lack of mentors, and not getting enough direct experience with STEM activities were some of the reasons they didn’t pursue the field.
Women throughout history have shown that they are great contributors and innovators in technology. However, women still face sobering realities — women make up 50.04% of the U.S. workforce. They have consistently represented roughly one-fourth of STEM jobs in the last 30 years. While women are underrepresented in STEM fields both in the job market and college, there are even fewer women of color. In the fields of science and engineering as doctorate graduates, 86% of those women are White or Asian. Less than 4% are Latinas, and fewer than 3% are Black. Women CEOs continue to be a rarity in the U.S. making up only 4.8% in the tech market. The gender imbalance is often referred to as the STEM gap. Despite the emphasis on gender equality, disproportion remains an issue in this field. Statistics show that women in STEM jobs are paid an average of 89 cents per each dollar that men make.
Clearly, there’s work to be done. We need more people in STEM leadership positions to acknowledge the importance of diversity and inclusion. Young women need to see other women in roles of leadership. Getting more women into tech roles today can help break the cycle of a male-dominated industry.
The conversation is not new and continues to grow louder. One thing that strikes me, however, is how often the articles on this topic seem to focus more on the business case for diversifying the STEM industry and not how these opportunities transform lives for those who are now seeing open doors. Yes, of course investing in a more diverse workforce will benefit a company in a plethora of ways, but that’s missing the point.
Little girls deserve to live in a world where they can be and achieve anything they set their minds to. Let’s focus on the fact that girls and women of all ages benefit from the STEM industry becoming more inclusive. It helps US to lead more meaningful and fulfilling lives both personally and professionally should we choose to pursue that path. It gives US a voice in an industry that is literally shaping the future. And don’t we deserve that? Yes, we do.
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