While women in the United States make up 47 percent of the workforce, they are significantly underrepresented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industry and as recently as 2015 comprised only 24 percent of STEM jobs nationwide.
Because we need a diverse range of perspectives and ideas to solve the world’s most complex challenges, gender inequality in these innovative fields is unacceptable. As part of the National Inventors Hall of Fame®’s ongoing mission to inspire young girls to pursue their STEM dreams, we’ve discovered that exposing them to relatable female STEM role models is crucial to maintaining both interest and confidence in their ability to excel in these careers.
In our white paper “How Exposure to Innovation Closes the Gender Gap in STEM Fields,” we explore these ideas in further detail. Below are a few highlights from our research:
The Harmful Effects of Gender Inequality
While gender bias has received much of its national exposure through unequal payment practices – on average, full-time working women are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to a man doing the same job – this imbalance can have even more serious consequences when it comes to health care. Due to the lack of female physicians and representation during clinical trials, according to the American Heart Association, women are receiving less than optimal treatment. This is inexcusable, as women have a greater chance of suffering from a stroke during their lifetime than men do.
Negative Gender Stereotypes
One of the central deterrents causing women to avoid pursuing a career in STEM are gender stereotypes that begin to develop in children as young as four. These false narratives, including the unsubstantiated belief that girls are less skilled than boys in math and science has caused the former to believe the STEM industry is not for them. Research from the University of Washington has also found that because many STEM workplaces have cultivated a “masculine culture,” many women avoid these jobs for fear they will not be accepted.
The Power of Role Models
The good news is that educators can mitigate the effects of negative gender bias and stereotyping by introducing girls to innovative STEM role models! Research from Opportunity Insights found that exposing girls to female inventors at a young age has the potential to reduce the gender gap in technical STEM fields by half. The effectiveness of this strategy is grounded in the idea that through these introductions, female students can see firsthand how they too could become innovators.
Read Our White Paper to Learn More!
To learn more about how exposure to innovation can help close the gender gap in the STEM industry, we invite you to read our free white paper.