Action needs to be taken to get girls involved in STEM

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

In elementary school, kids are constantly asked this question. Most kids have the feeling that they can be anything when they grow up. They could be a doctor, an astronaut, a ballerina; they could be anything they wanted. But as we grow up, this dream slips further and further from reality. But particularly for girls who are interested in a science, technology, engineering, or math careers, aka STEM, their dreams are crushed faster than most. Through unintentional gender bias and stereotypes, we discourage girls from following their dreams and pursuing a STEM career.

In all STEM fields combined, girls only occupy 24% of the jobs in the field. For me personally, this really strikes a nerve. With my future profession of cybersecurity, only 11% of girls hold jobs in the field. Eleven percent. I am absolutely appalled that this is such a small number.

Why is it that girls have such a smaller chance of being involved in STEM?

Maybe it is because of the way we raise them. As children, toys are marketed with gender and careers in mind. Girls are gifted dolls and nurse kits to learn how to take care of other people. On the other hand, boys are given toy rockets and science experiment kits to learn these science and engineering traits. While this is unintentional, toys can nail a gender-biased thought into young girls mind. These toys are directed at a target market of only one gender. It is completely unnecessary, and it needs to stop.

Maybe it is because of the stereotypes we put in young girls’ heads. In the media everywhere, girls in STEM are seen as nerdy, anti-social, and outcasts. It’s seen on TV shows, movies, and books everywhere. This stereotype could not be more false. I cannot tell you how many kind, inviting, and intelligent women I have met who happen to work in the STEM field. It’s about time we drop the labels.

Maybe it is because of the wage gap. At the end of the day, people need to make money. According to research at Ohio State, women in STEM earn 11% less than men in their same field, even though they have the same amount of experience. When women hear stories of the wage gap, they can feel discouraged. What is the point of entering a field in which they can inevitably make less money than their less qualified male counterparts? Don’t get me wrong, some steps have been taken to close this wage gap. Companies have started to realize the nature of their flaws and make sure females are paid equally. But until it is completely closed, women face another obstacle when trying to enter the STEM field.

While there are steps being taken to close the widening gender gap in the field, these actions need to be taken into full force. Until these actions are carried out across all companies and jobs, change cannot be made. These changes are coming, but we need them sooner rather than later. I hope that within the next generation, young girls can say they want to be a rocket scientist, a robotic engineer, or an astronomer, and be taken seriously.