Today is International Women's Day. EIT is celebrating the women who are currently filling positions in the engineering industry across the globe. However, most experts are cognizant that more needs to be done to encourage women to enter the engineering industry.
The World Economic Forum reports that women account for just 11% of employees globally in architecture and engineering. The number is shockingly low, but the fight for women’s representation in engineering is beginning to gain traction.
Microsoft and KRC Research conducted a study on the STEM industry named Closing the STEM Gap: Why STEM classes and careers still lack girls and what we can do about it.
Dr. Shalini Kesar, Associate Professor at the Department of Computer Science & Information Systems at the Southern Utah University, writes:
“For years, girls and young women have been a critical missing part of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) studies and careers. The stubborn gender disparity in STEM fields has sparked important debates on the underlying reasons. Some attribute the gender disparity to social and infrastructural factors, lack of mentors and role models, and lack of awareness about what these fields offer in terms of educational and career opportunities.”
She says the archaically held view that engineering is ‘boring' and ‘only for boys' dissuades females from joining the industry. The report says girls ‘have a hard time picturing themselves in STEM roles.'
So, what can be done to convince girls that STEM is cool, a great career choice, and an industry to stay in until retirement? Schools are saying it starts in the classroom at an early age — STEM subjects and after-school clubs are the perfect way to do that.
Clubs for girls
Microsoft and KRC Research report that 44 percent of middle-school girls who participated in STEM clubs or activities, said they would likely continue engineering studies after school. Only 15 percent of girls who were not in STEM clubs or activities said they would pursue engineering studies after school.
The numbers (seemingly) don't lie: educators should implement better mechanisms inside their schools to get girls interested in STEM.
Another way to encourage young women to get involved in STEM fields is through mentorship programs with successful female engineers. Essentially, attracting and retaining females in STEM industries should be prioritized in a world calling for equal representation.
Dr. Shalini Kesar would agree and chalks the confidence she has in herself as a woman in STEM to the spurring on her parents did when she was younger. She wrote:
“My parents used to tell me that, ‘even if you are one drop of water in an ocean, it is those drops combined that make the ocean.’ Across southern Utah, I see a domino effect: when one girl sees the power in STEM and computing, she becomes a role model for her friends and community.”
“Our Insight, Your Breakthrough.” KRC Research, www.krcresearch.com/.
“The Engineering Mystery: Where Are the Women?” The Globe and Mail, The Globe and Mail, 6 Mar. 2019, www.theglobeandmail.com/business/careers/article-the-engineering-mystery-where-are-the-women/.