According to the US Department of Commerce, women hold almost half the jobs in the workforce. However, women hold less than 25% of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related jobs. Currently only 12% of female college students will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in science and just 3% will continue to work in a STEM field 10 years after graduation. The question is why are women so underrepresented in STEM? In today's modern society where women can doing everything, why are so little women and girls deciding to not go into STEM?
In 2010, AAUW created a research report that shows evidence that can explain why the numbers of females in STEM are so low. Their report is shows eight key research findings that point to many social and environmental barriers that include stereotypes, gender bias, and the climate of science and engineering departments in colleges and universities- that continue to block women's progress in STEM. The report also includes statistics on girls' and women's' achievement and participation in STEM (which is staggering). A few main points are below:
Stereotype threats affect women in a STEM setting even if they don't realize it. Threats arise when a negative stereotype is relevant to evaluating performance. For example, a female student taking a math test experiences an extra cognitive and emotional burden of worry related to the stereotype that women are not good at math. A reference to this stereotype, even one as subtle as taking the test in a room of mostly men, can adversely affect her test performance. When the burden is removed, however, her performance will improve. Thus, women not being in STEM is affecting and hurting the few women in STEM.
Individuals with a "fixed mindset" believe that intelligence is fixed and not changed while a "growth mindset" believes intelligence can be developed and grown upon. People with growth mindsets typically want to learn more, embrace challenges, push through obstacles, see effort as a path to mastery, etc. People with a fixed mindset typically loose confidence when encountered with challenges while people with growth mindsets see as challenge as a earning experience and gain confidence with challenges.
Research shows that successful women (and women in general) in STEM have growth mindsets. STEM is challenging. Women in STEM with fixed mindsets loose confidence very easily due to the nature of STEM. In order to have more women in this field, we need to be teaching young girls growth mindsets and confidence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.