STEM needs more women

Study shows underwhelming representation of degree-holding women in STEM fields.

Daily Editorial Board

A new study conducted by Yale University shows that there continues to be a bias against women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. It seems that despite nationwide efforts to increase the number of women seeking STEM degrees, there is still a disproportionate representation of men in these fields. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2009, only 18 percent of women working in STEM fields had a degree in engineering, compared to 48 percent for men. The study conducted by Yale also made note of the fact that women, after obtaining a STEM degree, were less likely to work in a STEM occupation than their male counterparts and more likely to seek a career in education or health care.  But one of the more shocking assertions the study made was that female scientists are less likely to be hired by faculty in research positions. Evaluation of résumés randomly assigned a man or woman’s name for a lab manager position revealed that faculty considered the “men” to be more competent, hirable and deserving of a higher starting salary than a woman with the same
qualifications.

Whether it is active discrimination, or simply a lack of interest or motivation, women need to be aware of the gender bias they face in STEM fields. Higher education also has a role to play in encouraging women to take on STEM degrees. It is time to dispose of the stigma often coupled to the woman breadwinner; a greater balance of men and women working for STEM corporations and industries is necessary to drive the future of science, and the economy, forward.