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Paving the way for women in tech

Today is International Day of Women & Girls in Science – so let’s celebrate!

Sarah Daren
Women in Tech
© Shutterstock / Sofiaworld

International Day of Women & Girls in Science takes place annually on February 11. To celebrate the day, Sarah Daren took a look at female STEM specialists’ accomplishments, how to deal with obstacles that are keeping girls and women from pursuing a career in science, and how we can continue working towards gender equality.

Throughout history, women have had to struggle against huge challenges to participate in STEM fields like science and technology. Fortunately, some women have beaten the odds and become role models in these exciting fields. It’s high time we celebrated their accomplishments—just in time for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrated annually on February 11th.

In 2019, Dr. Katie Bouman helped researchers capture the first image of a black hole—an astonishing accomplishment. The doctor’s algorithm enabled scientists to develop a history-making image of one of the great mysteries of space.

SEE ALSO: International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020: Raising up voices

Dr. Bouman’s accomplishment will help pave the way for many female STEM specialists and is likely to inspire young girls who want to join these exciting and challenging fields. Dr. Bouman isn’t the only woman making waves in STEM, though. Let’s take a look at what’s going on for women in STEM currently, and at what the future might hold for girls and women in these fast-growing sectors.

Women Diving Into Data

Today, data drives our world. The fastest-growing and most lucrative jobs around the world are in the STEM fields, particularly in technology and engineering. In fact, employment projections for computer and information research scientists will grow 19% from 2016-2026, a rate well above the 7% increase for all occupations as a whole.

Although women have been grossly underrepresented in the fastest-growing fields over the last 50 years, some are diving into data and joining in on today’s hottest careers. Women have so much potential to positively influence our world through big data in a variety of sectors, including healthcare, environmental science, and engineering.

Women who work with data can improve their economic potential and help to close the wage gap that still persists between men and women in the United States. However, getting more women to dive into data means encouraging young girls in their interest. Interest drops among girls as they reach junior high and high school age, due to many different cultural forces. The good news is that more and more schools are beginning to put resources into getting more girls interested in STEM subjects.

STEM: A Future With Unlimited Potential

There are lots of reasons women are underrepresented in STEM fields. Sexism is a huge problem in the workplace and discourages women from reaching their full potential. But underrepresentation starts earlier, in the classroom. Many young girls are gradually discouraged from pursuing STEM careers due to persistent cultural stereotypes and beliefs about girls’ and boys’ interests and abilities.

STEM fields can offer girls a future with unlimited potential. The world is changing, and these fields are becoming more and more important every year. Technological skills and the ability to think logically and critically will be key for participation in the workforce of the future, and we need to state preparing today’s young girls for their future careers.

Fortunately, many dedicated educators have been working together to ensure that all girls have access to a high-quality STEM education, through online resources, lesson plans for teachers, and large-scale workshops. Many of these resources focus on engaging students through hands-on experiments and projects that show how STEM skills can be applied in the real world. Even teachers at schools with limited resources can find activities suitable for their classrooms.

It’s important for girls to see the potential in a future STEM career. They need to be given the opportunity to feel like STEM subjects are for them and could turn into exciting work opportunities in the future. Women have so much to give to STEM fields, but representation needs to improve.

Celebrating International Day for Women & Girls in Science

The bad news: currently, under 30% of researchers internationally are women. The good news is that influential organizations are on the case.

Each year, on February 11, the world celebrates the International Day for Women and Girls in Science to honor the women and girls who participate in the field and to boost awareness of their underrepresentation. The goal of the day is to encourage participation by women and girls around the world and to inspire the global community to help women succeed in STEM fields.

The International Day for Women and Girls in Science was created by the United Nations to help ensure that women’s talents are fully utilized in these crucial fields. Led by UNESCO and UN-Women, the celebration brings together institutions and other partners to get more women and girls interested in becoming scientists and researchers.

Paving the Way for Future Generations of STEM Learners

Understanding the problem of female underrepresentation in STEM and raising awareness of the issue is key in making big changes. Although we might not see the results of the ongoing efforts to get more women into STEM right away, we’ll be able to see a big difference as future generations enter the workforce and make a difference.

To pave the way for the future, we need to take a good look at how we’re teaching STEM subjects in schools. Educators need to re-think the way they’ve taught in the past and make sure they’re engaging and encouraging all students. Stepping up the STEM curriculum to meet 21st-century expectations can be difficult, but there are lots of great STEM lesson plans and activities out there for teachers and parents who want to help girls participate more fully.

Continuing the Good Fight for Gender Equality

It’s easy to feel like the fight for gender equality was over long ago. Unfortunately, that’s nowhere near true. Women and girls still face major obstacles in joining the STEM fields, sharing their talents, and earning a comparable income to men.

SEE ALSO: International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020: Raising up voices

We need to continue the good fight for gender equality every day of the year and support women and girls who are interested in STEM. Building momentum is key for the cultural changes that will one day make it easy for women to get a job in fields like technology and engineering. In the meantime, we need to get that ball rolling and celebrate the stories of amazing women who have already made a lasting impact through their work.

If you’d like to learn more, check out these resources on women and girls in STEM:

https://onlinebusiness.umd.edu/blog/data-analytics-tools-for-stem-teachers-students/

https://onlinemasters.ohio.edu/blog/k-12-stem-lesson-plan-guide/

https://www.ucf.edu/online/engineering/news/five-stem-space-activities/

Author
Sarah Daren
Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health, wearable technology, and education. She believes that by harnessing the capabilities of science and technology advancements for good, the world can change for the better.

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