Plant & Works Engineering
Empowering women in STEM
Published:  30 October, 2019

Over the last four decades more women have entered into STEM careers than any other, according to data analysis by LinkedIn. Philanthropist and former general manager at Microsoft, Melinda Gates, said: “Innovation happens when we approach urgent challenges from every different point of view. Bringing women and underrepresented minorities into the field guarantees that we see the full range of solutions to the real problems that people face in the world”. Contributing to this positive change, Lookers, who offer a range of car service plans, launched a female apprenticeship scheme back in 2018.

Industries that are primarily dominated by men are the Science, technology, engineering and mathematics industry. The ratio of women earning jobs in these fields are extremely low compared to men. Statistics from 2017 show that women made up only 23 per cent of the STEM workforce. Although this is low, this is 105,470 higher than the number in 2016.

The idea of STEM- related careers being mostly suited for men’s abilities is changing. This year has seen some of the biggest names and influential figures in the industry being women, such as Kate Bouman, the woman who engineered the first image of a black hole.

However, in 2018 the period tracker on Fitbit was criticised for having a 10-day cycle. If more women were involved in the creation, they would’ve realised this was three days too long. In the States, the tech industry is one of the highest paying fields — yet women are still paid less than their male counterparts.

In this article, we track how more women have entered STEM than any other field in the past four decades.

Shaking off stereotypes

The idea that men are more suited for certain jobs than what women are is something that we have all learnt throughout our life. Charles Darwin described women as intellectual inferiors and universities rejected women up until the 20th century.

The senior vice president for the American Association of University Women, Laura Segal, said: “Teachers and parents provide explicit and implicit messages starting in early childhood that boys and men are ‘better’ at math, and the gaps in the professions reinforce the opportunities, culture and lack of role models that perpetuate male dominance”.

In an attempt to encourage more females in the UK to enter STEM related careers, the likes of schools, recruitment agencies and Universities have tried different initiatives since 2012. Previously, female students reported avoiding STEM courses because of a lack of female role models to identify with. If girls were taught about female role models like Marie Curie, for example, who discovered the effects of radiation, perhaps they’d be more inclined to pursue a career in the field.

In recent years, exam boards have included more famous women in the industry in their content to help combat biasness. Rosalind Franklin, a woman central to the understanding of DNA, has been taught across the nation. This has been linked to this year’s A-level results, which saw female students studying STEM courses (50.3%) outnumber male students (49.7%).

Financial support

To help support women in the industry, Philanthropists have donated money towards the gender gap in STEM industries. $25 million has been funded to boost girls’ interest by changing the narrative that they’re masculine careers. It’s expected to inspire other girls to follow other successful women.

It’s been reported that many women have left male-dominant work environments due to there being a rather toxic male orientated culture. They noted that they had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously and to earn respect.

In order to have more female representation in STEM related careers, Lyda Hill Philanthropies introduced 125 female ambassadors. Part of the donation will be used to fund grants for women to study STEM courses.

Development stages

It’s reported that it is costing the UK £1.5 billion a year due to a lack of skilled STEM workers, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Apprenticeships have an equal gender balance, yet only nine per cent of STEM apprentices are women.

The government is trying to fix this disappointing statistic by informing more women about STEM related careers and encouraging them to go into apprenticeships in these fields. The aim of the female apprenticeship scheme Lookers begun in 2018 is to double the amount of their female apprenticeships and provide a positive environment to encourage and attract women to STEM. Civil Engineering Consultancy, Patrick Parsons are an example of a company that offer this too.

Lately, STEM advertisements have been using more gender-neutral language to take positive steps towards equality. However, there is a lot of progress to be made for women in STEM.