November 8th, 2022 Revature

Roadmap To Bridge the Gender Gap in STEM — Challenges & Solutions

Today, women are more likely than men to enroll in college. They are also more likely to earn a four-year college degree. But even as women become more educated, they are lagging far behind men in a key area, namely, going into STEM careers like computer science and engineering. That disparity is often referred to as the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) gender gap.

What Is the STEM Gender Gap?

The STEM gender gap refers to the fact that women are under-represented in the science and technology sectors.

The non-profit group National Girls Collaborative Project says that women comprise only 28% of the science and engineering workforce. While women are fairly well-represented in the social sciences and in biology, they are under-represented in some of the most in-demand STEM sectors. Only 15% of engineers are women. Just 26% of computer and mathematical science jobs are going to women.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the situation is hopeless — not by a long shot. The National Girls Collaborative Project also notes that the gender gap in STEM is getting narrower. There are more women in technology today than there were in the past. Women today also have access to new solutions, making it easier for them to become STEM leaders. Intrigued? Keep reading to learn more about bridging the gender gap and building an inspiring future for women in STEM fields.

Obstacles Faced by Women in STEM

Women face a number of challenges when it comes to working in STEM fields. Unfortunately, the challenges seem to exist at almost every stage of a woman’s career. Women often experience challenges when they first try to enter the STEM workforce. The same, or related, obstacles often crop up again later in women’s careers, as they seek promotions or apply for grants.

Here are some of the typical problems faced by women in the science and tech industries.

Feeling Like an Outsider

Sometimes, science and technology fields can feel like a boys’ club, and women can feel intimidated or excluded.

Studies have shown that this perception starts in early childhood. When young girls are asked to draw a picture of a scientist, they typically draw a picture of a white man. If they do draw a female scientist, that scientist usually looks angry or upset. In other words, young girls may be internalizing a societal message that science is a male field, and that getting involved in STEM will have a negative impact on women.

This can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Pew Research Center has found that in 2018, women made up just 22% of engineering graduates, and only 19% of computer science graduates. Just under one-third of advanced degrees in engineering and computer science went to women.

If fewer women are in college-level STEM courses, then young women who look into those programs are likely to feel out-of-place in those courses. The more women stay away from such programs, the more that STEM is likely to remain a boys’ club.

That means that jobs will continue to go to qualified men, while women turn away from the field.

Lack of Mentorship

Having a great mentor can make a difference in almost every area of life. But mentorship is especially important for women who are trying to break into male-dominated STEM fields.

Studies have shown that mentoring helps students in the science and technology fields to find better jobs or research opportunities. Mentors provide their mentees with emotional support and been-there-done-that wisdom. They build up confidence and help link their mentees to networks of others in the field who can lend them a helping hand.

Studies also show that women benefit from being mentored by other women. Unfortunately, with few female leaders in STEM fields, it is challenging for young women and girls to find suitable mentors in those fields.

The lack of mentorship means that many female STEM graduates are essentially reinventing the wheel by themselves. This may limit how far they are able to go in their careers, and it may also limit their sense of possibilities at the outset.

Solutions That Can Bridge the Gender Gap

The obstacles facing women in STEM can seem overwhelming. However, all of these issues do have solutions.

Better Mentorship Opportunities

There are signs that mentoring opportunities are already on the increase for women in STEM.

The Million Women Mentors initiative is designed to get more young women involved in STEM fields by pairing them up with women in the field. Colleges and universities are actively designing programs to encourage mentorships for young women.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but momentum may be building for serious progress on this front. It’s also becoming easier than ever before for women to identify job opportunities in STEM fields, thanks to programs like Revature, which trains and recruits talented women for STEM jobs in the private and government sectors.

Making Women Feel Welcome

Overcoming the sense of outsider-ness can be a challenge. However, it’s not impossible.

As more women begin to receive specialized training and enter the STEM workforce, they will gradually take on a critical mass. We can think of it as a virtuous cycle: as women enter the workforce, they inspire high school girls to go into STEM programs in college; those college students, in turn, inspire young girls to take their science and math classes seriously.

That’s why it’s so important to improve STEM education at every level. But it’s also why training and recruitment programs can make a huge difference. Recruiting and training young women for STEM jobs gets them into the field immediately, so that they can start working – and inspiring younger women – right away.

Building Bridges with Revature

Revature is dedicated to bridging the gender gap in STEM and helping underrepresented groups break into STEM fields. At Revature, we believe that everyone benefits from diversity. When people from all walks of life can exchange ideas, we all have a greater chance of finding solutions to our world’s most pressing problems.

That’s why we actively recruit and train women and other underrepresented groups, so that they can start working in computer science, engineering, and other key STEM fields. Contact us today to learn more about what we’re doing to help overcome the STEM gender gap.