Despite women having more rights now than at any time in the past, they still only make up a minority of people working in STEM industries in the United States. Much more work is needed to help women smash through the glass ceiling and fill top STEM jobs.
In 2015, women still only accounted for 24 percent of workers employed in STEM industries in the United States. Representation of women of color is even lower. Only 2.9 percent of Black American women and 3.6 percent of Latina women earn STEM degrees.
The lack of women in STEM industries is a problem for female equality. Studies show that some of America's highest paying jobs are in STEM industries, which means that women could lose out financially if they cannot find positions in this sector.
Even those women who have careers in STEM industries are losing out. Research shows that women working in STEM earn less than their male coworkers.
Some researchers suggest that implicit bias accounts for some portion of the STEM gender gap. When men and women with the same credentials compete for the same jobs on college campuses, the male candidates are likely to be chosen over the female ones. Many science faculty members have a bias toward male students, which they must become aware of and seek to overcome.
Another part of the problem is a lack of female role models in STEM industries. Textbooks overwhelmingly focus on the work of male scientists, overlooking the contributions of important women. Both companies and universities must make an effort to highlight the achievements of women to help girls and young women see a place for themselves in STEM.
Another way of getting more women into STEM jobs could be to set up mentorship programs, which support women entering STEM industries. Studies show that 32 percent of American women who start a job in science, engineering, or technology leave within one year, with many complaining about hostile work environments and feelings of isolation.
Returnships, which are programs that help women to return to work following a break to care for children or family, are another idea for helping women reach top STEM jobs. These programs allow women to balance their goals of raising a family and having a rewarding career. Some companies also make returnships available to men, encouraging them to act as the main caregivers for their children while their female partners continue working.
There are many reasons why women leave the STEM field, which means a multi-pronged approach is needed to shatter the glass ceiling. By tackling implicit bias, hostile work environments, lack of representation, and the damaging effects of long career breaks, STEM industries can recruit and keep more female talent.
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