A new study by female geoscientists and engineers looks deeper into the problem and offers solutions on closing the gap. Women are interested in the STEM field; women make up 53 percent of science undergraduate and masters students around the world and 43 percent of Ph.D. candidates. However, the further up in the field you progress, the number of women decreases. In 2013, women made up just 23 percent of tenured science academics and 13 percent of professors in Europe.
The research also surveyed over 300 people in the field. The results showed chronic underrepresentation in areas such as journal publications, prestigious jobs at universities and scientific committees. The women in the field reported feelings of not being taken seriously, gender stereotyping, lack of female role models in the field, and exclusion from social events.
While the results are bleak, they aren’t exactly surprising. However, the researchers developed a seven-step plan to increase gender representation in the field. The plan doesn’t just apply to women, it takes into account the influence of men, and can be used in other disciplines with gender disparity.
The steps are as follows: advocate for more women in prestigious roles; promote high-achieving females; create awareness of gender bias; speak up; get better support for women returning to work; redefine success; and encourage more women to enter the field at a young age.
The researchers stress the importance of everyone speak out when they witness gender bias occur. If only the marginalized groups speak out, it has less of an effect than when men in the field voice their concerns about the situation.
Support for young girls and women entering the field is crucial. While many women have the skill and passion for the field, they often lack the mentorship needed to keep them pushing forward. Girls interested in the field should have more opportunities to practice their skills and connect with others who share the same interests, as women are more likely to stay in STEM PhD programs when there are more women enrolled in the program.
The steps focus around promoting the visibility of women already in the field and their successes. Representation matters, and even in TV shows and movies, men in STEM roles outnumber women nearly 2 to 1. When young girls see only men in those types of positions, they assume that those types of careers aren’t attainable to them. They’re discouraged before they even start.
By increasing the representation and support for women in STEM, it will help to close the gender gap and encourage more women to pursue careers in the field.