In recent years, an initiative designed to push more women and girls into the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math has emerged, as a means of bridging the gender gap in these areas and improving opportunities for women. It’s referred to as Women in STEM, the acronym referring to the aforementioned fields in which women have been historically underrepresented.
Encouraging women to pursue typically male-dominated professions allows them access to careers that “earn on average 33 percent more than their counterparts in other fields,” according to the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Because of the Obama Administration’s mission to encourage more women to enter STEM fields, many school programs are designed around piquing girls’ interests in areas of study like science and math. According to a statement from the White House, “The Office of Science and Technology Policy, in collaboration with the White House Council on Women and Girls, is dedicated to increasing the participation of women and girls—as well as other underrepresented groups—in the fields of science, engineering, and mathematics…” The initiative sets forth to do this by engaging girls in STEM subjects through mentoring and proactive advocacy.
One area of concern about the initiative is the staggering disparity between women who pursue education in STEM fields, versus the number of women who are actually able to attain careers. Many women study STEM subjects in college, but are still unable to break into fields such as engineering and science. According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, “America has a plumbing problem. We are investing heavily in attracting more women and girls to STEM jobs, but all along their career pipeline, from the start of college until retirement, they seep out.”
Social analysts are still trying to determine how this continues to occur, but one finger can be pointed at social norms, and the need for a change in the way that scientists and engineers are portrayed. Women who don’t fit the standards – long dominated by men – could have a harder time fitting into STEM fields.
For more information on the benefits of and opportunities for women and girls who pursue science, technology, engineering, and math, visit the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Women in STEM page.