As the world becomes increasingly complex, so too do its challenges. To overcome these, we need creative solutions and a wide range of perspectives. While the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields have historically produced some of the most revolutionary advances to our society, as parents and educators we must do more to diversify careers that have been dominated by a single gender. One of the most effective ways to do this is by combatting harmful stereotypes that begin affecting boys and girls beginning at age four.
The Troubling Lack of Gender Diversity in the Health Care Industry
Stereotyping has caused extreme gender imbalance to occur within the health care industry. Reasons for this are varied, but center around the misguided belief that there exist “gender specific” jobs. Many men, for example, consider nursing a female profession. Because of this, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 men held less than 12 percent of the registered nursing jobs in the United States. Additional research from the Harvard Business Review found that there has been “no increase in the percentage of men in health care occupations that require tasks most associated with femaleness like bathing, feeding, or toileting,” despite incredibly strong growth in these jobs overall.
When it comes to leadership positions in health care, the levels of gender diversity are not much better. According to STAT, the percentage of women on Fortune 500 health care executive teams has remained stagnant at 22 percent, and currently only one-third of hospital executives are women. We can do better. This lack of perspective at the highest levels of health care leadership is dangerous, and can lead to health policy decisions that disproportionately harm women.
Dispelling Gender Stereotypes Through Role Models
Because gender roles begin forming during early childhood, and strengthen as a person matures, the earlier children are introduced to a wide range of gender diverse role models, the more likely they will view STEM careers as gender neutral. Recent research published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology supports this, and found that early exposure to “counterstereotypical” role models at a young age represents a promising way to combat the effects of gender stereotyping. This same research also found that the most effective role models are ones a child can relate to, increasing the likelihood a child will view the individual’s career as something they too could pursue.
Doing Our Part to Inspire Students
Through our education programs, we at the National Inventors Hall of Fame® introduce children to a diverse range of world-changing Inductees in order to show students what they too could become. We invite you to learn more about the power of exposure to innovation by visiting our website.