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How can more women & girls be encouraged to study and work in STEMM?

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For decades research in a variety of STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering Mathematics, and Medicine) field’s has given rise to pioneering discoveries.

The extensive research undertaken in the STEMM fields has led to notable technological advancements as well as the discovery and development of new drugs. Despite the promising outcomes of  a variety of scientific research,  the underrepresentation of senior women professionals working in the STEMM sector, and the lack of females choosing to study STEM subjects still remains a cause for concern globally.  Julia Harrington of Queen Anne’s School reports that “23% of women filled core STEMM occupations in the year of 2017”. Furthermore Women in STEM ambassador Rachel Riley states that to encourage more girls into STEM, “teachers should present science in a way that is enjoyable, inclusive, and creative”.

Why do Some Women Choose Not to Pursue Careers in STEMM Areas?

Many former and current female scientists worldwide have made notable contributions to both science and humanity. However fewer women than men are willing to consider studying science at university level, and are shown to be significantly underrepresented in a variety of STEMM sectors, such as surgery, computer science, engineering and mathematics. A multitude of factors feature here, including a lack in confidence in their own skills, discrimination, stereotypical beliefs and inadequate support, from family members and teachers. The research study conducted by Holman et al highlights that men working in different science sectors constitute more than half the workforce, while their female colleagues are promoted at a slower rate, receive a lower wage, and are more likely to leave the profession. Moreover, data recently published by the Unesco Institute of Statistics (UIS) states that less than 30% of women occupy global research positions in STEM areas.

The study Rainey et al indicates that more women than males, are less likely to feel a sense of belonging when they are in STEMM environments and because of this they are more likely to leave.

The presence of a mentor can highlight that female STEMM graduates can pursue successful careers in a variety of science areas.

What can be done to promote engagement and widen participation of women and girls in STEMM?

Strategies which can be  implemented to encourage a  greater number of  women and girls to study and pursue careers in STEMM  based fields, include  providing mentorship,  role models, returnships (for women  returning to science after taking  time out from their careers)  hosting science workshops and networking events, creating more STEMM degree courses (distance learning programmes, degree courses with a sandwich year/ work placement), internships, apprenticeships, and offering financial support.

The presence of a mentor can highlight that female STEMM graduates can pursue successful careers in a variety of science areas. Mentors will be able to inform their mentoree(s) about different disciplines that they could choose to study (such as engineering, medicine, pharmacy, space science, etc.), discuss career options and industries that might offer students work experience during their studies. Hosting workshops and networking events can show how exciting it is for people that are currently studying or working in science.  Financial support including scholarships, grants and company sponsorships, could be offered to support more female students from lower income backgrounds. Additionally recent research studies have reported that,   many women who have young children would be willing to accept additional support from employers, so they can succeed in both their professional and personal lives.

To encourage a greater proportion of women graduates into various STEMM industries, it falls upon the employer to demonstrate, that female professionals are considered to be just as invaluable to the workforce as their male counterparts.

Why Should Women Study and Work in STEMM?

The recent breakthroughs attained from conducting clinical studies in STEMM areas, such as medical research, technology and surgery, has made the STEM sector a creative, and exciting industry to work in.  IP Careers estimates that “by 2023, over 142,000 jobs will be created within the STEMM sectors” and many of these positions will be occupied by female graduates.  This means that women who choose to pursue careers in STEMM fields, will have the opportunity to acquire specialist knowledge of a unique field, earn a munificent salary, and be an inspiration to generations of future women scientists.  Thus, any individual possessing the credentials, aptitude, diligence and determination to pursue a career in STEMM, should be encouraged to do so, irrespective of their gender, culture, and socioeconomic status.

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