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Why we need more women in STEM

Woman in STEM carrying a tray of test tubes wearing a white lab coat

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Abhishek Bahl, Founder of JetLearn, takes a look at why diversity is so important in STEM, how we can overcome barriers and encourage more female talent into the industry, and the role governments, academia and organisations have to play in this.

2023 is the year of AI and, with the topic dominating the news in every field, we are seeing more emphasis placed on the role of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skill sets in the workplace in order to keep pace with rapid advancements in technology and their potential to solve global challenges.

Despite the growing significance of these fields, a substantial gender imbalance persists, with women being underrepresented in STEM careers. According to data from the Pew Research Center, only 25% of computer jobs and 15% of engineering jobs are occupied by women.

In this article, Abhishek Bahl, Founder of JetLearn, takes a look at why diversity is so important in STEM, how we can overcome barriers and encourage more female talent into the industry, and the role governments, academia and organisations have to play in this.

Abhiskhek is the founder of JetLearn, Europe’s best online coding academy for K-12 with learners in 46 countries. They are committed to empowering girls and women in STEM, and recently hosted their innovative workshop “The World of NFTs: Celebrating Iconic Women”.

THE BENEFITS OF DIVERSITY IN STEM

Diversity in STEM fields leads to improved problem-solving and creativity. Diverse perspectives foster innovative solutions to complex challenges, and teams composed of individuals with varied backgrounds and experiences are more likely to approach problems from different angles, leading to unique and effective solutions. Translated into business benefits, this means enhancing team performance. There are also economic and social benefits to increasing the representation of women in STEM; one obvious benefit being a more concerted effort to close the gender pay gap and create more inclusive products and services for females.

OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO WOMEN IN STEM

One significant barrier to women’s participation in STEM fields is the persistence of stereotypes and unconscious biases. Gender stereotypes often discourage girls from pursuing STEM-related interests, as they may be led to believe that these fields are not suitable for them; we need to challenge these biases and foster an inclusive environment that is crucial for promoting gender equality in STEM.

A lack of role models and mentorship also poses a challenge for women in STEM. When women in leadership positions are scarce, it can be difficult for young girls to envision themselves pursuing careers in these fields. Creating a supportive environment and providing mentorship opportunities can help to address this issue. We need to address the “leaky pipeline” in order to attract and advance women in STEM fields; identifying key points of attrition and implementing targeted interventions to ensure that more women stay in and progress through their STEM careers.

ENCOURAGING GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN TO PURSUE STEM

Early exposure to STEM subjects is essential in inspiring girls to pursue careers in these fields. Integrating STEM education into the curriculum and providing opportunities for hands-on learning can spark interest and foster a love for these subjects.

We also need to champion the accomplishments of women in STEM in order to inspire the next generation. Media representation and visibility of successful women in STEM can help to break down stereotypes and demonstrate the potential for girls to excel in these fields. There also needs to be the financial and academic resources in place to increase opportunities for girls and women in STEM; scholarships, internships, and mentorship programs can all play a role in creating inclusive spaces for women to thrive in these fields.

THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT, ACADEMIA, AND INDUSTRY

Whether we like it or not, government and industrial bodies play a huge role in changing the perception of women in the workplace. As highlighted by the Harvard Gazette, women in STEM need more than law, and developing and implementing policies that promote gender equality in STEM is a crucial responsibility for governments. Initiatives and programs aimed at supporting women in STEM fields should be a priority for policymakers.

Encouraging collaboration between sectors is another way to address gender disparities in STEM. Partnerships between academia, industry, and non-profit organisations can lead to joint efforts that drive change. Accountability and tracking progress are essential components of any initiative. Regular monitoring of gender representation in STEM and setting targets can help to evaluate the effectiveness of policies and programs.

The urgency to address gender imbalance in STEM fields is more apparent than ever. As a society, we have a collective responsibility to promote gender equality and create an environment where women can excel in STEM careers. By doing so, we pave the way for a future where more women drive innovation, as well as create an industry which can fully leverage the benefits of a more diverse workforce.

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