Women in STEM: Breaking Down the Gender Gap

My sisters and I had it figured out at a very young age. They would generally play with dolls and bake sweets; while I smashed those dolls with whatever I could get my hands on. There’s nothing wrong with little boys and girls taking traditional roles at play time, but by limiting gender specific toys, are we depriving them of something more?

According to the Department for Professional Employees (DPE) women make up 48 percent of the college educated work force in the United States. However, in fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) women only account for only 24 percent. More specifically, in structural and civil engineering careers, women are responsible for less than 20 percent of the work force. This illustrates a stark under representation that spans several decades.

Today inspirational people are taking action to encourage young girls to pursue STEM careers. Foundations like the National Girls Collaborative Project try to bridge this gap head on. Their primary goal is to “maximize access to shared resources within projects with public and private sector organizations and with institutions who are interested in expanding girls’ participation in STEM.” 

Companies are also taking a more unconventional approach. GoldieBlox designs toys which break the general “pink aisle” stereotype.

Debbie Sterling, founder and CEO of GoldieBlox believes that the key to getting young women involved in STEM is to make engineering fun and exciting. The idea is that if we can reach our girls at a young age and teach them that they to have the power to build, they will have the confidence to rise up the chain of command in a male dominated field.

GoldieBlox is kicking the old myth that girls only play with dolls and Easy-Bake ovens, making toys that foster creativity and strengthen spatial navigation. With hopes that these toys will give them the skills they need to build amazing things.

Sterling could be on to something. Building blocks, erector sets, Legos, and many other toys that require a child to use spatial skills have been incorrectly labeled as toys for boys. It’s possible the main reason engineering inspired toys have been dominated by boys is because they were made specifically for boys. Sterling’s theory is that young girls are interested in stories and characters; they want to know answers to questions like, “why and what are we building” and “who is it for?”

For years engineering toys have been advertised without girls in mind, and GoldieBlox aims to change that. The time has come to shift our culture. Women in STEM earn 33 percent more than women in non-stem careers; there is no reason why more women shouldn’t take advantage of this opportunity. Tara Chklovski, Founder, CEO of Iridescent a science education non-profit for all ages said “It’s more culturally accepted to have shopping as a hobby than to have tinkering as a hobby.”

Chklovski’s statement hits the nail on the head. Young girls should be encouraged to push their creativity to new heights in unique ways, to cast a shadow of personal ingenuity, and to challenge themselves to become leaders in traditionally male dominated fields. 


Source: ESA