Why a Girl Doesn't Grow STEMs

by Navy Girl on October 14, 2016 - 1:01pm

     Why is it that girls are most often considered and encouraged to be like flower petals—beautiful and artsy—instead of stems where complexity and science is a beauty of its own? Why is there a low ratio of girls to guys in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields?

     Perhaps stereotyping in the classroom and media is to blame for the previous. In the classroom, and even at home, girls struggling in math are often consoled “It’s not your fault; math and science aren’t really girl things.” Television shows, movies, apps, media—they all seem to portray a female who is a model, artist, baker, a doctor, and sometimes a lawyer more often than a nuclear scientist, a program developer, an accountant, or an engineer. Perhaps girls feel that they can’t excel in fields where men are thought to “have the genes for it.” Perhaps women are afraid that doing so would make them less attractive to that cute hubby they’ve been hoping for. Honestly, the reasons are quite possibly as varied as us ladies. Either way, the stereotyping is wrong.

     Frankly, STEM is dominating our world today, and it is important that these fields are not stereotyped, because, if they are, we may soon face a generalized world. Why should guys create apps and media for girls? Why should men take all of the high positions in the growing business industry? If technology and engineering are for everybody, shouldn’t it be created and operated by everybody and not just males? Shouldn’t women have an equal opportunity to desire to study and enhance the world by science since it is, after all, our world, too? Cell phones and software fill our world, making technology and engineering an impossible field to ignore and not know something about. Math is everywhere, and science is constantly growing. Where will we women be if our place in STEM continues to become scarce?

     In conclusion, I think that one way girls and women can grow their interest and career options in STEM is to break down and/or ignore the walls of academic stereotyping. Maybe we’ll stand out for a while, but we’ll be standing among great women who have advanced the fields of STEM. In fact, one day we may welcome more women—our sisters, our nieces, our daughters, our neighbors etc.—into the field.  Ladies in the STEM fields: shine like the sun to encourage us, and help us grow in STEM, too! As for you guys, won’t you please shower a special lady in your life with encouragement to pursue her passion or grow her interest in STEM. Maybe, once all that has happened, any girl can grow STEMs while continuing to embrace the petals.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/06/20/stem-fields-and-the-gender-gap-where-are-the-women/#421a10a833a9

 

Comments

I would like to start off by first complimenting you on your article. I felt that you addressed a significant issue in our society, and loved that you provided a solution to it as well. However, I believe that the oppression of women stretches much further than just the science, technology, engineering, or math workforces. In virtually every profession, women face inequality that men are never subjected too. To describe such a phenomenon we use the term “glass ceiling”, due to which, despite their levels of education, qualification, or even achievements, women are prevented from advancing to the top of a certain profession. Think of it as an invisible barrier that does not allow them to progress. Although both genders are found in equal numbers when looking at entry-level positions, it is alarming when we realize that the further up you move along the corporate ladder, the ratio of women to men diminishes significantly. We can therefore conclude from this that men are favored for higher positions, and this lowers the chances of women from ever attaining large income jobs. You said that men should push their female friends to pursue careers in the sciences, but how should we solve this problem when in reality it encompasses every sort of profession out there? Here I have linked an article that seeks to further explain the glass ceiling, and shows the way it affects women in the film industry as well.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/martha-ts-laham-/the-celluloid-ceiling-tru...

Hi Navy Girl,

The title of your post really caught my eye, which persuaded me to read up on your post. I felt your blog was very intriguing to read as it discussed one of the most controversial topics in present day. I found that your topic perfectly highlighted the underlying issue of women in STEM and I really liked how you provided reasoning for this controversy.

From reading your post, I felt like I could also connect with the stereotypes you had pointed out with women in STEM. With this being said, I did some further research on women in STEM and found a really interesting article from Macleans which really brought to light how few women are in STEM. Just to connect my findings to your blog, Macleans pointed out how many people still give the excuse that women can’t juggle work and home life as reasoning for them not being in STEM. To continue, others pointed out that 53% of women surveyed reported backlash for displaying “masculine traits” such as being assertive in meetings. As you previously stated, the only way women will continue to pursue careers in STEM is to “knock down the walls of academic stereotyping.” I feel as though knocking down the walls of academic stereotyping is easier said then done as this issue stems from an even more controversial issue of defining gender roles. Since we cannot knock down these walls quickly, perhaps the best short-term solution is to emphasize the issue of women in STEM to the public.

Katherine Shirriff

http://www.macleans.ca/society/life/why-there-are-still-far-too-few-wome...

The addition of girls to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields, in all honesty, is fairly recent. Throughout history, these areas have been dominated by men, and women never really had a chance to show their abilities in STEM fields. However, the modern empowerment of women has caused a shift in which women have a chance to do whatever they want. As a girl in a science program, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to study what I please. Men and women definitely can have cognitive differences, but that should not rule out an entire field for one gender or the other. Even in classrooms today I think there is still a lean towards 'traditional' gender roles and I often found myself being encouraged to pursue the arts. I never particularly thrived in this field so I was always curious as to why I was being steered towards it. If it was not for my parents I may have ended up in a program I hated just because others felt it was right for me. The empowerment of female youth will only continue to enable them to control their own lives and continue to dominate in STEM areas and fields.

First of all, I was drawn to your article by your catchy title, and it's play on words. I like how you related it to how women are expected to be like the petals, not the stems. Like previous comments have stated, I believe that the oppression of women goes farther than just these fields. The 1950s were notorious for promoting the "housewife" image -a women who's main purpose was to stay at home, take care of the kids, cook, clean, keep her husband happy and keep up her appearance. While that was 60 years ago, there are many people who are still alive today who lived through that era, and they in turn have passed those ideals along to their children as well. A lot of work is being done to revolutionize these ideals, but some people refuse to change and consider themselves "traditional." However, women are free to choose their educational path, so why is there so few in the STEM fields?

My initial thought when reading this blog was to think back on an episode of Shark Tank, where the entrepreneurs were two females at MIT who were in mechanical and electrical engineering. They believed their passion for STEM came from when they were kids and the toys they played with. So they decided to build a line of toys, specifically marketed to girls called "Roominate." The idea behind these toys is to promote building and creativity for girls. They realized that "boy" toys consisted of building, constructing, and creating (ex. legos) whereas girl toys mostly consisted of dolls. By launching Roominate, they hope to inspire a new generation of girls to choose the STEM field path. I provided a link to an ad they have, to better explain their concept and focus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVkePojeoS8

I read your post because I was curious about what STEM meant. When I found out it reminded me of how gender stereotyping begins right at birth with the question "is it a girl or boy". The parents then have to make the crucial decision on what colour all the babies wall, clothes etc should be depending on the gender. Pink if it's a girl and blue if it's a boy. This extends to childhood to what toy you can get depending on what gender you are. I remember growing up playing with legos and my sister always had barbies but hardly played with them. She usually played legos with me. And she owned a Barbie Jeep (it was super pink) but I played with it so much because I didn't care it was pink just that it was a vehicle. And then this extends to women in the work force.
Right at birth society pushes gender stereotypes so that being a girl and being a boy are different. But this shouldn't be the case. Everyone should feel they can pursue anything they want, whether that be an engineering job or a G.I. Joe.

How gender-specific toys can negatively impact a child’s development. (2015). Women in the World in Association with The New York Times - WITW. Retrieved 18 October 2016, from http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2015/08/12/how-gender-specifi...

Hi Navy Girl,

To begin, your intriguing play on words and meaningful metaphor was an excellent way to introduce this issue that so many can connect personally with. Previously, I have not given much thought to the potential impacts that suggestion has on the integration of young women into STEM fields but I now realize you are absolutely correct with respect to the gender inequality among fields. The problem behind this is no doubt a result of academic stereotyping as you suggested in your post, however, I think that academic stereotyping is just one of the many types of discrimination that stem from the bigger issue of gender inequality. Do you think it would be beneficial to tackle this issue from a larger scale as well, as opposed to just encouraging girls in an academic setting to pursue STEM education? Perhaps by reducing gaps in equality on other fronts there will also be a positive impact with regards to STEM fields.

Your post also reminded me of a recent initiative by the University of Waterloo and HeForShe campaign aimed at promoting gender equality. The University of Waterloo recently announced that they would be providing HeForShe IMPACT Scholarships directed toward six females each year pursuing degrees in STEM programs. Do you think that this is an effective initiative to eliminate academic stereotyping? Check it out!
https://uwaterloo.ca/news/news/university-waterloo-awards-heforshe-schol...

Hi there,
Your article caught my attention due to your play on the word ‘STEM’ which I really liked. You cover a very controversial, modern topic well which gets the reader thinking. You emphasize how girls are often portrayed in the media and how they can be encouraged in certain fields in life instead of others like math which got me thinking about how I have been treated since childhood. Since reading your article I have notice the stereotypes that were imposed on to me throughout school such as having different toys such as Barbies compared to boys having action men and having had different expectations. However, when I reached secondary school there was a massive push for girls to continue and keep up science and math subjects until the end of school. This was to encourage us to do subjects that we possibly thought were not accessible to us as girls. I think this example shows that there are changes happening in the world today that encourages girls to get more involved in ‘STEM’ rather than just being the ‘petals’ of society. I think you cover a number of valid points that make the reader think, however you also raise awareness of the media role in this issue. I feel that after reading your article and through my own experiences there is a massive pressure on girls from the media to conform to the ideas that are thrown at them from the media everyday whether this be concerning our role in society or the academic path that we wish to take. I enjoyed reading your article as you effectively show how girls can be influenced by the different stereotypes given to them as children and how this can influence them later in life.

Previously, I have never given much thought to gender-stereotypes in STEM disciplines, however your post brings up a very interesting argument. As a student in a Science program, I have actually noticed the opposite. It always appeared to be a more female-dominated study. This has led me to believe that it is females, not males, that prefer to study Sciences.Although I do not have much insight into the gender stereotyping that occurs in the other disciplines of STEM, it is likely a complete misconception on my part that the ratio appears so far off from the truth.

I looked into this topic further as it really caught my interest and found out a little more. I found an article that discussed how a test, called the Implicit Associations Test, conducted to determine their subconscious association between science and gender. Of the over 500,000 people across the world that took this test, 70 percent indicated a subconscious association of males with science disciplines and females with arts disciplines. I found this very interesting as some people may not even think that they are gender-stereotyping these roles, but are doing it at the subconscious level.

I've attached the link to this article is you would like to look into it further. I found it quite fascinating.

http://www.aauw.org/research/why-so-few/

This was a very interesting and attention grabbing post. The title caught my attention as this is a very prominent issue in our society today.

It was interesting to read about women in STEMs as a continuing issue today even though concerns over this issue have been around for decades. Last term I worked on an assignment discussing how gender stereotypes are demonstrated in TV shows such as Father Knows Best, The Cosby Show, and Family Guy where sexist comments about women in the workforce were subtle yet rampant throughout the episodes. It is discouraging that the issue is still relevant after decades of awareness but I also believe that the stereotype is slowly being broken down and the traditional view of women not being involved in STEMs is changing. Women are increasingly being portrayed in STEM fields in numerous shows and the percentage of females in leadership roles are rising, not by a lot, but the trend is aiming in the right direction.

Hi Navy Girl
I found your post about the lack of women in STEM jobs quite interesting. I had a general sense of the gap between men and women in these fields but I never really gave it much thought. I do think that the gap is getting smaller as the majority of my classes in a STEM major have more females than males.

Upon further research in this topic I've found that there has been some increase in the percent of women in STEM jobs but it is still very low. Also, many of the women in STEM jobs are not in higher management positions. It is also harder for women to be recognized for outstanding work.

Overall I really enjoyed your post!
Here are the links to the information that I found:
http://www.esa.doc.gov/sites/default/files/womeninstemagaptoinnovation83...
http://www.macleans.ca/society/life/why-there-are-still-far-too-few-wome...

Hi there,
I really enjoyed reading your post, I thought it had a lot of personality! The play on words was clever and caught my attention too. I definitely think equal representation is something we need to fight for to make sure we are using minds from all backgrounds to create the future together. I was proud last year when for the first time our new Prime Minister Trudeau appointed a cabinet in government that had an equal amount of men and women and when asked about it, he said 'Because its 2015'. It seems like just common sense to me that our world is 50/50 so jobs should be as well too to get different perspectives mixed in. This piece also reminded me of a really awesome commercial done by 'Goldieblox' which is a toy company that tries to encourage girls to be interested in STEM type careers from an early age. You can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIGyVa5Xftw

Article about Justin Trudeau's cabinet:http://globalnews.ca/news/2320795/because-its-2015-trudeaus-gender-equal...

Hi Navy Girl,

I wanted to compliment you on your opening sentence, it was really intriguing and clever and it made me want to read the rest of your post! I believe it is absolutely true that girls are often valued for their "petals" or appearance over their brains and the roots/stems they are capable of making. I also agree with you that from a young age society is constantly pushing girls away from these STEM industries and sectors and discouraging their dreams. I have to disagree with you, however, in your last paragraph about how girls should just "ignore" stereotyping and bias, because I think it is a lot more complicated than this. In this article I found (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/07/upshot/how-elementary-school-teachers-...), it discusses the bias that society has surrounding girls succeeding in STEM fields. For example, a study was held where students were given 2 tests: one graded by strangers and one graded by the teachers that knew their names. The girls got higher grades than the boys when the tests were graded anonymously, however it was the other way around when the teachers saw their names and graded their tests. "The researchers concluded that in math and science, the teachers overestimated the boys’ abilities and underestimated the girls’, and that this had long-term effects on students’ attitudes toward the subjects."
I would argue, then, that it is extremely difficult for girls to just "ignore" these biases because it often starts from a very young age with parents and elementary school teachers, and by the time a girl is grown up enough to recognize these biases and how society is affecting her, it may be too late. Therefore I would argue that it should instead be society's and institutions' job to try to break down these biases and encourage girls to pursue STEM fields.

I just want to begin by commending you on choosing such an overlooked social issue that women everywhere are subjected to. In the media women are often portrayed as vulnerable, incapable, and often made the butt of the infamous PMS joke. The many questions that you articulated in your post made me reflect on how these barriers affect myself, and women around the globe on a daily basis. As a science student in a predominantly high female populated university, I have not encountered these “academic stereotyping” issues mentioned in your post. Nonetheless, I don’t deny that they exist. There is often a large discrepancy in both the amount of women in executive positions and amount of money that women earn, in comparison to their male counterparts.

Who’s to blame, the media, oppressive upbringings? Social constructions of women based on social, cultural, and biological notions have created a “glass ceiling” that’s been carried along, and evolving, since the beginning of our existence. But I believe that our generation is breaking these barriers. More women are able to get educated and have more freedom than ever before to pursue careers over starting a family. You say, “We may soon face a generalized world”, however I feel that as a society we are slowly moving away from that mentality. Other factors need to be researched before correlating the number of women in STEM fields as a result of male oppression. In today’s society, there are many powerful women in the media, along with numerous famous idols supporting the feminist movement through campaigning for gender equality. Females have the capacity to conquer STEM sectors regardless of their portrayal in the media, or preconceived societal constructions; it is our job to empower them to inhibit social equality!

Hi there,

After carefully reading your post, I do believe that more females should enter the STEM world. You really nailed one argument I liked where you talked about more girls become or pursue a modeling career, rather than getting involved in technology and engineering fields. There is a lot of pressure on men, because these areas of study and research are not easy to coupe with. Females assisting can help alleviate the pressure, since more individuals are getting involved and contributing. One thing I would suggest consists of adding more content to your argument since it is a big topic to cover. So maybe talking about economic growth and quality of life advancement. I found a video on YouTube that further talks about STEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-6usiN4uoA. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this post and you had some really good arguments.

Cheers