From the second world war to the 1960’s women were the powerhouse of the tech world. Both the World Wars meant that whilst the men were in the armed forces, many women took only what was considered traditionally male roles, leading to a big emergence of in women in Tech. Women became the driving force behind what we know of technology today, with more than one in every four programmers being female. At the time, men in the computing industry regarded writing code as a secondary, less interesting task! Many women gained early engineering experience working in large factories with machinery and as telephone operators, and they were encouraged to take on these sorts of roles.
However, as technology has become a larger part of our lives, and as the demand for these jobs has increased, the number of women in these positions had reduced. Men dominated the industry in the 1970s, and workplace inequalities were common. Women were encouraged to prioritise marriage and family life over their careers, and by the end of the century, over 70% of computer science graduates were men. Now, women make up only 28% of the workforce in the STEM industry.
Key factors of the gender STEM gap:
- Gender stereotypes – Gender stereotypes are everywhere in STEM fields. With men being seen as more technologically intelligent regardless of their skill-level or education. As a result, men are more likely to get job roles than women due to these stereotypes.
- Lack of recognition and progression within the workplace – Women are often-times not given the managerial role within the workplace, because of the company’s organisational structure. Women frequently become stuck in their careers due to a lack of advancement, which leads them to look for job roles in industries where they can progress.
- Lack of Female Role Models – In a male-dominated industry it is often hard for women to find role models they can look up to. Studies have shown that individuals are more likely to identify with a role model if they share similarities such as gender. Because of the lack of similarities, it can be difficult for women in STEM to relate to men, resulting in a lack of role models for women to look up to.
What can we do to close the STEM gap:
Boys are pushed toward science and math from an early age whereas girls are pushed toward humanities subjects and languages. Women often feel deterred away from pursuing a career in STEM throughout their early years. The seed of what children are expected to become based on their gender is planted when the idea of careers and questions such as “What do you want to be when you grow up” start to linger in the minds of youths. schools are an important place to persuade young girls not only why they should pursue a career in STEM, but also how they can do so, by allowing them to explore career paths such as apprenticeships and university courses.
Awareness and Role models:
Young girls are often discouraged from pursuing STEM careers due to a lack of role models and awareness of other women in the field. With a lack of awareness in this field of work, young girls and women can often feel they are not capable of achieving what their male counterparts can. International Women’s Day and International Women in Engineering Day are excellent opportunities to inspire and spark interest within these fields. Therefore, businesses taking part in these awareness days can really help to highlight the importance of women in the industry and recognise everything they’ve accomplished.
Introducing diversity within the workplace:
One of the main factors discouraging women from pursuing STEM-related careers is a lack of diversity in the workplace. For many women trying to break into an already competitive industry, achieving the same qualifications as their male counterparts is not enough. Women are required to go above and beyond to achieve the same level as what men have achieved in the industry. Giving more job opportunities and more work experience to women in these fields can not only help boost the confidence of women already in the role to pursue more managerial job roles but can also spark the interest of many young women.