More than ever before, women are choosing to fulfil a career in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) related subject. Throughout schools and universities, STEM subjects are being encouraged and it’s vital we keep this momentum going. Looking back in history, unhealthy gender stereotypes have been created in the likes of the engineering and technology sector causing them to be heavily male-dominated. As a result, the stigma attached to women fulfilling a career in a STEM industry has discouraged many people from reaching their full potential. However, the stereotypes associated with STEM industries are being tackled and elements of such are being incorporated into every industry.
What’s changed for women in engineering
Over the years we’ve seen some great changes towards getting rid of gender stereotypes and STEM industries - however, there is still more that needs to be done. According to findings from UNESCO, less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women. This is an underrepresentation that can be seen in every region of the world. It is also still apparent that boys are more likely to choose STEM subjects both in school and university.
However, we’re still headed in the right direction and are seeing some positive changes be made. There has been a rise in the number of girls who choose to take STEM-related subjects in both school and university. For example, we have seen a 31% increase in the number of girls taking STEM A-Levels in the UK (between 2010 and 2019) and a 50.1% increase in the number of women accepted onto STEM-related undergraduate university courses in the UK between 2011 and 2020.
Now, more viable opportunities for women and girls in the STEM sector are being noticed. What’s more, the influx of women in the sector is set to change the industry forever. With a growing number of female so-named STEMtreupeners, we’re not only seeing the increasing number of women in the industry, but we're also set to see greater innovations focussed on the needs of women.
Defying gender stereotypes
Other than defying the gender stereotypes in the STEM sector, the industry as a whole is beginning to change.
Traditionally, we may have mainly associated STEM with engineering and construction. However, the power of technology has since made its way into just about every sector. Because of this, students no longer have to face the decision between a career in something creative and a career in something technical. More and more, we are seeing the two areas crossover.
For example, let’s take a look at the fashion industry. STEM skills are more important in the fashion industry now than ever before. Today, companies everywhere are experimenting with innovative materials for more sustainable shoes and clothes as well as high-tech supply chains. The trainers pictured above have 70% recycled uppers (image courtesy Zalando).
The innovations in creative sectors such as fashion, the film industry and other artistic fields, rely on STEM more than ever before. We are certainly seeing STEM skills become more and more relevant across every sector.
We are seeing demand rise for those trained with these technical skills and the boundaries of STEM expand. Thanks to the continued breakdown of stereotypes, we’ll gradually see those important roles filled by a more diverse generation of employees. If we continue along the current trajectory, we’re set to see more women entering STEM workforces, in both traditional roles and roles that would have been unimaginable a mere few years ago. A greater number of women in STEM spells empowerment, innovation and creativity in nearly every sector.