The Struggle is Real – Females have a harder time advancing in STEM fields

Here are the statistics for females in STEM fields:

  • Out of every 100 bachelor’s degrees earn by females, only 12 of those are in the STEM fields
  • Only 3 females, out of those 12, are still working in STEM fields 10 years later. You could say that only 25% of us “make it.”
  • Females still only earn $0.83 for ever $1 that a male earns.
  • In the U.S. females make up 28% of STEM professionals.
  • Females earn approximately half of all STEM undergraduate degrees but only represent a quarter of STEM professionals. We are losing 25% of STEM females in the space between college and getting a job.

There are a lot of theories about why this is. In my opinion, it’s largely due to the fact that females are the primary care-givers in families. They do the majority of child care, provide care to ill family members, and so on. When women take time off from their profession to care for their families, they find it very difficult to integrate back into STEM fields. At least that’s the story I hear over and over again when talking with females who have STEM degrees but aren’t working in the field.

How do we address this problem?

One of the best ways to address this problem is to create clear pathways that assist women through the STEM career journey. We also need re-integration programs that help women get back to work after they’ve taken time off for family.

What can we do for our daughters who want to pursue STEM?

As a scientist who had to find her way back into STEM after her career track was stalled, here is what I would suggest:

  1. Get your girls involved in STEM activities before the age of 8. Girls can get into STEM at any age, but involving them in STEM before 8 helps solidify they idea that they can be good at any STEM discipline and helps to mitigate girls who think “I’m bad at math.”
  2. Get them involved in extracurricular STEM activities. So many female STEM professionals got into the field because of clubs, camps, workshops, and other out-of-school opportunities. A school’s curriculum will incorporate STEM learning, but out-of-school programs focus on bringing STEM to life through fun and engaging activities.
  3. Nature is an ideal space for developing STEM skills because kids are able to problem solve, thinking critically, and explore the world around them in a scientific way. Helping your kids through structured activities outdoors will help develop their STEM skills even more. (Click here to download free outdoor STEM activities)
  4. Get your daughter involved in some kind of STEM network. Female STEM professionals love helping young women pursue their passions in STEM fields. Look for out-of-school programs with female scientists and engineers who can encourage your daughter and help them find a good pathway into a STEM career. (Nature Matters Academy is a great way to give your daughter access to additional STEM activities and integrate her into a network with me, a biologist. Click here to learn more about the academy.)

Click here to read about why you should be giving your kids an early STEM advantage.

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