Empowering Women in STEM
The Society of Women Engineers details a GenderInSITE (Gender in Science, Innovation, Technology and Engineering) study in collaboration with the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) and the International Science Council (ISC), which was published in September 2021. The study explains that “women comprise the majority of the governing body of the Royal Society of Canada. However, women still represent less than half of the governing in most other countries, including Australia, Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico and the United Kingdom.” While improvements are visible in terms of efforts to ensure equal access to education and careers in STEM, women still struggle to represent themselves in the STEM field. A  World Economic Forum article, which published in 2020, even states that women in STEM publish less and are paid less. This article will discuss the reason for the international gender divide in STEM and how organizations are empowering women in STEM.

Global Statistics for Women in STEM

According to UNESCO data from 2015, women made up almost 50% of the global population but only 30% of female researchers in science, technology and innovation. Furthermore, in the region of Asia, just three out of 18 nations “had an equal or above proportion” of female STEM researchers. The Philippines noted  52% while Thailand recorded 51% and Kazakhstan noted 50%.

The latest estimates of world poverty by U.N. Women, UNDP and the Pardee Center for International Futures project that, “globally, 388 million women and girls will be living in extreme poverty in 2022 (compared to 372 million men and boys).” For this reason, empowering women in STEM is crucial as global poverty disproportionately impacts females.

Bias and Gender Stereotypes in STEM

Deeply rooted bias and gender stereotypes run rampant in the STEM field, causing many women to shy away from their careers. Empowering women in STEM by giving girls an opportunity to participate in STEM-related fields allows the gender gap and gender pay gap to decrease, leveling the playing field for all people. Empowering women in STEM to participate in STEM-related activities also increases women’s economic stability, ensuring a diverse STEM workplace and preventing future biases from forming based on the new prevalence of female role models in STEM. Some factors that affect the gender STEM gaps are gender stereotypes, a male-dominated STEM culture, few female role models in STEM and academic pressure on girls.

Self Confidence Begins in Early Childhood

If one presumes that female disengagement in STEM begins in their early years, encouragement of the eradication of bias and gender stereotypes in STEM needs to occur as early as possible. In fact, “a study by Archer et al. (2010) suggested that although young children do not have profound knowledge about science subjects, they attribute masculine traits to science early.” Research has consistently proven that students mostly perceive science subjects (math, physics and chemistry) as a male domain. Later in life, as confidence develops in these young women, this self-assurance will play a crucial role in entering the STEM field as a woman. Yet again, research suggests that empowering women in STEM plays a vital role in early childhood confidence.

AAUW: Closing the STEM Gap and Empowering Women

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has put forth active solutions to empowering women in STEM since 1888. The AAUW funds graduate education and invests in women who will save the world through STEM. AAUW offers fellowships and grants to fit one’s academic and professional goals. For the year 2021-2022, the AAUW awarded more than 260 fellowships and grants to women and community projects, equating to more than $5 million.

A Look at AAUW International Opportunities

The AAUW offers International Fellowships and International Project Grants. Women who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents can apply for an International Fellowship, which awards full-time study or research in the United States. U.S. institutions support graduate and postgraduate studies. AAUW’s dedication to empowering females in their native countries goes beyond an International Fellowship. In order to generate enduring support globally, AAUW awards alumnae who return to their home countries after their AAUW-funded studies an opportunity to apply for a grant allowing alumnae to further their academic achievements and execute community-based plans, enhancing the lives of all females.

Organizations like AAUW do life-changing work in terms of helping to advance gender equality. By empowering women in STEM through opportunities and funding, the AAUW helps to improve women’s economic and career prospects, which contributes to reducing global poverty overall.

– Kaley Anderson
Photo: Flickr