International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the advances that women have made in society and culture and to recognise the challenges we still need to overcome.
The STEM field is challenging for a multitude of reasons and, despite some progress, women still face a disproportionate amount of these obstacles. In an ever-growing field that shows no signs of slowing down, in the US women only makeup 28 percent of professionals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. While numbers reflect some positive change over the last decade, there’s still much more to do before women are properly represented in STEM. During International Women’s Day, it’s important to recognise those who drove change before us, celebrate the strides we’re currently making, and light the way for the generations of women to come.
CLOSING THE GAP
The promotion of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics has slowly infiltrated the media as a way to encourage young girls’ interest in these different subjects. TV shows and movies boast of how women and girls can be anything and achieve anything if they put their minds to it. And while this is important to do, they fail to acknowledge the “glass ceiling” that many will hit when they move forward with their education or join the profession.
According to the Pew Research Center in the US, 53 percent of STEM degrees were earned by women in 2018. In comparison, in 2019 only 26 percent of STEM degrees in the UK were earned by women.
The AAUW conducted research into what it’s like for women studying and working in STEM. In their results, they found some commonalities among the women they spoke to. When women decide to study STEM, they find that colleges and universities are much less welcoming. From advisors to professors to their peers, they face increased scrutiny and discrimination. If women stay steadfast through this and enter the workforce, they face much of the same discrepancies. Unbelievably in some STEM roles, women in the UK can face a 30 percent pay gap and women in the US can make $15,000 less than their male counterparts.
ENCOURAGING THE NEXT GENERATION OF WOMEN
Despite these challenges, the number of women in STEM in the US has increased by 31 percent between 2011 and 2021. In the UK, we are seeing slow but consistent growth in science professionals as women currently make up 46 percent of the field. In the US, specific areas in STEM such as surgeons and veterinarians are seeing a progressive increase in retaining women in the field and pay gaps closing more consistently. While progress may be slower than we hope to see, it would be unmindful to overlook the changes that have been made.
What these studies tell us is that encouraging women and girls at all ages and stages of their life is important. Having role models, teachers, friends, and coworkers that advocate for women and who are women can make a huge difference. Creating more diversity, in not only gender but race, in the educational field could provide us with a larger culture change in STEM. This diversity could be most effective if implemented when children are just starting their educational journey. Being raised with encouragement towards STEM rather than deterrence could change so much for many young girls.
While it is good to celebrate the strides and changes that have been made, it is equally important to acknowledge what areas still need work. In doing so, we can aim to make effective changes for future generations and recognise how far we’ve come every day, not just on International Women’s Day. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are at the heart of a progressive society and being a diverse and inclusive field will only make it more impactful.
At StarCompliance, we celebrate the talents and achievements of women around the world as we continue to break down barriers and drive essential change for greater gender equality. There is no better way to support women globally than to support the amazing women within our own organization. One such initiative is launching our Star Women in Tech group, to empower the incredible women in our team and explore how we can further support and encourage women across the world to enter STEM fields.