While women are making massive amounts of progress in the world of work, some sectors remain deeply unequal, making them even more challenging for women to advance in. One of these sectors is STEM; only 26% of STEM graduates in 2018 were women, and most higher-paid and higher skilled roles were occupied by men.

For many years people have discussed the disparity in STEM and have developed strategies to encourage more women into STEM from a younger age. Many people believe that, as young as primary school girls are beginning to think that some careers are not available and accessible to them, careers such as STEM. 

You can find information about the STEM gender gap on this page, what it is, and why it exists. As well as support for women in STEM. 

Women in STEM

STEM is the acronym used to describe the subjects and industries Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. STEM subjects cover a vast and broad range of careers, from anything medical to motoring, finance to dentistry. 

Some other popular careers include: 

  • Coding specialists  
  • Neuroscientist  
  • Artificial Intelligence Researcher  
  • Genetic Engineer 
  • Aerospace Engineer 
  • Digital Musician  
  • Economist

The research surrounding women in STEM suggests that the disparity begins at university level, with far fewer women choosing to study STEM subjects. In 2018, only 35% of STEM students were women, and in some subjects, such as Computer Sciences and Engineering & Technology, this percentage is as low as 19%. 

This disparity does not flatten after university level. The STEM sector has been rapidly increasing every year, from 2017 to 2018; STEM employment had risen by 6.3%, which is more than six times the total employment rise for that year. However, this does not translate to rapid growth in female STEM employment; in 2018, women still only made up 22% of the STEM workforce.   

The STEM area that currently has the most gender equality is Science Professionals, which is made up of 43% women. 

Why is there a STEM gender gap?

It is believed that the STEM gap is rooted in our attitudes and stereotypes about boys and girls while they are at school. One of the major causes of the STEM gap is the assumptions regarding STEM subjects that they are better suited to the ‘male attributes’ of strength, logic, rationality, and analysis. At the same time, women are assumed to be better suited to creative and caring roles. Teachers and parents then subconsciously pass these stereotypes onto young students. 

Other research suggests that the STEM gender gap has become a self-fulfilling problem as the low numbers of female employees in STEM allow the workforce’s culture to be very masculine dominated. This then creates an exclusionary and old-fashioned atmosphere which detracts women and other minorities. 

Whatever the root cause of the STEM gap, it is widely acknowledged that there needs to be more encouragement towards young women interested in these subjects to fix it. As well as prejudice and stereotypes, confidence is suspected to be one of the primary reasons women and young girls don’t feel able to progress into STEM. If they do, they tend to remain in lower-level positions. 

Support for women in STEM

Even though growth is slow, there are now more women than ever working in STEM and Studying STEM subjects at university. Being the only woman in a male-dominated instruct can be an isolating experience. If this is you, then you should research to see if your organisation has a staff network or women’s group which you can join. In the STEM sector, many large businesses are trying to encourage more women to join, which means they may have an advisory board or equalities panel you can get involved in. 

The British Council also have a scholarship for women in STEM, which helps women who have an undergraduate degree progress to postgraduate level. You can find all the details on their website.

Women in STEM
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