Why Are There More Men Than Women in STEM Fields?

It is common knowledge that there are more men than women in STEM fields, and this is corroborated by recent surveys of career placement. Women have made major inroads in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math careers, but a significant gender gap still exists in terms of opportunities for advancement. Results from several years of standardized tests in math and science indicate that male and female students have about the same academic potential in all STEM fields with the exception of engineering and computer science. Women’s participation in these two courses was not as robust as their participation in courses related to biological, environmental and agricultural sciences. As a percentage of total jobs in computer and mathematics, women’s participation dropped due to a huge growth rate in men’s participation in these jobs.

Related resource: Top 10 Online Information Systems Security Degrees

Shortage of Mentors

Women have the innate ability to network, but there is a shortage of mentors in the STEM fields. A mentor is someone who can guide up-and-coming scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and others in the ways of STEM careers. This is crucial because technical proficiency in the field does not always lead to achievement, recognition and career advancement. Women may be academically prepared and technically gifted, but limited social savvy to navigate corporate politics, they may be at a disadvantage when it comes to advocating for projects and increased budgets. Mentors and role models pave the pathway to advancement for women in STEM.

Gender Disparity In Terms of Population

The physical sciences are traditional career choices for men. The number of women has increased, but men continue to dominate these fields. As such, women in STEM should expect a work environment that is predominantly male in leadership and supervisory positions as well as among their peers. At times, it may be difficult to have a voice and to make a stand especially in cases where the all-male workplace has just opened up to include a handful of women. While legal guidelines are in place to prevent and rectify harassment and all forms of gender discrimination, a work environment that is barely welcoming to women will drive away younger employees. Instead of pursuing a career in actuarial science, female mathematicians and econometricians may end up discouraged and turn to more women-friendly fields such as teaching.

Gender-based Social Differences

Men and women socialize and interact in different ways. Men tend to be more vocal while women may pursue non-confrontational strategies to make their point. This difference in communication styles is a source of conflict that may be driving women away from STEM fields dominated by men. In workplaces that have have been traditionally staffed by men, it may be difficult to change corporate culture to be more inclusive of female staff. It is difficult for women to gain entry into these workplaces much less thrive and achieve their potential.

Men and Women in STEM by the Numbers

The National Girls Collaborative Project shares how women account for about half of the total workforce with at least a bachelor’s degree. In science and engineering, women make up only 29 percent of the total workforce. Sixty-two percent of social scientists and 48 percent of science-focused workers in the life sciences, agricultural and environmental sciences are women. However, only 15 percent of engineers and 25 percent of mathematics professionals are female. Only 10 percent of computer hardware engineers and 7.9 percent of mechanical engineers are women.

Clearly, more needs to be done to support the growth of women in various STEM fields. Women are just as capable as men when it comes to academic proficiency in STEM courses. There should be no reason for gender to limit women’s career growth and advancement opportunities because women can be just as proficient as men in STEM fields.