Get Matched With Online Bachelors Colleges

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields are of vital importance to the US’ ability to compete and continue with new developments. However, despite the fact that 50% of the population is female, as of today men are much more represented in STEM fields than are women. While women occupy almost half of all jobs in the US, STEM fields lag behind in the statistics. Even more, women who do work in STEM fields earn less than the median of men who work in the same fields in compatible positions.

And all of this is despite the fact that women had major roles in putting humans on the moon, making breakthroughs in computer science, and more.

STEM Career Paths

Compare Popular Online Bachelors Programs

Why is STEM so Important?

Every STEM field helps to advance the world in such areas as healthcare, food production, and even manufacturing. The scientists and engineers who are doing this work would not have the necessary skills without the many available degrees in mathematics, engineering or technology. And, as lucrative as this field is, more than 2.4 million positions in STEM fields aren’t being filled. If these positions were occupied, the chances of them being filled by qualified women are relatively low.

Find Your Online Bachelors Program

Before students at all grade levels actually begin courses in any of these fields, they need to know just how important STEM really is. When they know just how valuable STEM fields are, they may be more likely to consider entering one and persevere as they continue through their education. When parents get down on the floor and play with building blocks or Legos with their children, they are beginning to teach them about math and engineering. In the past, girls were socially conditioned to run away from “icky” bugs, while boys reacted with “Hey, cool!” And this is where the gender gap begins. If we can avoid making these decisions for our children, we may be able to start moving past the ongoing gap between male and female participants in STEM fields.

What Bias Means

There are two kinds of bias. The first is conscious; the person knows what they feel and think. Their actions are deliberately carried out. The second form of bias is unconscious. Here, the person isn’t aware of what they are doing. In fact, their actions may oppose what they say they believe. Both forms of bias are unpleasant and can have a huge effect on the people the biased individual interacts with.

Bias, conscious or unconscious, implicit or explicit, makes its way into STEM fields. At young ages, girls may still be interested in working as scientists, engineers, or inventors. Society, such as teachers, guidance counselors, and even parents and peers may discourage these educational and career goals. This discouragement isn’t necessarily biased or focused toward keeping girls out of science. However, when we make assumptions and put our gender expectations on children’s interests, we are exercising bias.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has been working to advocate for girls in STEM by offering scholarships for female STEM majors and even marketing to introduce girls to STEM careers.

What is the Gender Gap in STEM Fields?

Through decades, the numbers of men working in STEM careers has far outstripped the numbers of women in these fields. Even though the employment of women in engineering and science fields has almost doubled in the past 20 years, the gender gap has narrowed only a little.

As an example, in 2010, women represented only 28% of the professionals in these occupations—even though they comprise about half of the workforce with college degrees. Women who have since earned science and engineering degrees have helped to narrow this gap, but only. Only 37% of women with science or engineering degrees now fill these positions, as compared to men who fill 63% of the positions in the field. As of 2016, women held half of the science and engineering bachelor’s degrees in the US but were still not hired at the same rate as men.

Why so Few Women?

Women are underrepresented in STEM fields largely because of the perception that STEM fields are masculine, which makes women feel like they don’t belong in the lab or engineering office. Girls and young women also struggle against gender beliefs about their abilities in technical and scientific fields.

Let’s look at the percentage of women earning degrees in various STEM fields: Women earn more than 40% of bachelor’s degrees in math; they earn only 18% of the undergraduate degrees in computer science. Biology, math, and chemistry undergraduate degrees are awarded to women in higher numbers than those for physics, computer science, and engineering.

Looking at early school experiences, girls may not have STEM exposure or experience in middle or high school. Even though the gender gap in schools with strong STEM programs is smaller, courses in physics, computer science, or engineering are not graduation requirements throughout the US.

Change for the Future

Young girls who aspired to enter a STEM field in school often face an unspoken gender bias. While they may have received validation and encouragement from their parents, society sometimes still tries to steer them in other directions. Even if two students, a boy and a girl, show the same amount of interest in math, they are often not given equal credit for their ability to understand numbers and frustration with the learning process may be met with different responses which can lead to different outcomes. For the boys, “You’ll get it eventually”; for the girls, “Maybe this just isn’t your thing”.

The likelihood that women would eventually leave a STEM pipeline after graduation used to be called the leaky pipeline. When the term was first developed, various factors such as discrimination, lack of growth opportunities, and even bullying in the work environment led to women leaving their STEM professions.

That has finally started to change. Women who progress from earning their bachelor’s in a STEM field are now, more often than not, continuing on to earn their PhDs and move into higher positions in their fields. Data from two large research samples now shows that, over the past 30 years, women are staying in their STEM degree programs; this is called the STEM persistence rate.

Resources for Women in STEM

As women choose to enter STEM degree programs, they will need support and mentoring to continue pushing back on societal pressures to choose a “more feminine” career field. At one university, female STEM majors receive mentoring, networking opportunities, and professional development as they meet with other women who are leaders in STEM fields.

Find Online Bachelors Schools

Smithsonian’s Science Education Center hosts a webpage that showcases women who have made history in STEM careers. These women include the late Katherine Johnson, one of the female computers in “Hidden Figures”, and Sally Ride, who was the first American woman in space.

Special Programs (National)

  • Women majoring in a STEM field can meet and network with other women as members of the American Association of University Women. They research, take part in fellowships where women are not well represented, and they take part in programs for girls, encouraging the next generation to consider a STEM field.
  • Million Women Mentors is an effort to engage young women to participate in a national call to action inviting non-profit organizations, higher education groups, and government agencies to begin mentoring programs for girls and young women interested in STEM.
  • National Girls Collaborative Project helps organizations to join together to stress STEM resources to school counselors to be discussed with female students.
  • Pretty Brainy works to encourage girls’ academic and professional achievements so they feel more confident in pursuing a STEM education and career.
  • The When in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics radio program features females in STEM careers.

Community Programs

After-school STEM programs introduce STEM topics to girls in elementary and middle school. Former US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, said that communities needed to provide exposure to students so that they know what is possible for them.

Even small, simple objects made available by makerspaces can help introduce children and girls to STEM activities. Cardboard boxes, string, and Legos are a fun way of beginning to show them how STEM works. You can find a myriad of STEM projects using these and other simple items on Pinterest and various homeschooling or teacher-focused/created websites. Creating a STEM-based curriculum for all students is also another option that many teachers have embraced.

College Programs

Even in college, young women can find plenty to support them along their path toward a STEM career. Many colleges have added a focus on women in STEM to their existing academic support structure. Whether you are looking for a place to explore your interests and where you think they will fit within the realm of STEM or if you are looking for a place to discuss any bias you encounter along the way. Schools have, for the most part, stopped discouraging women in STEM and begun to take the opposite tack. While you will likely still run into the odd professor who isn’t as encouraging as you could hope, you can also now get in touch with female alumni who are in the exact position you want to enter yourself, not to mention the growing set of female scientists and college professors.

Top Paying Careers in STEM

Income given for each career is based on how much you might make with some experience under your belt, or later in your career. And this is just skimming the surface of the options available. Not listed are computer system administrator, web developer, mechanical engineer, civil engineer, actuary, cartographer, nurse anesthetist, dentist, physician assistant, and many more.

  • Database Administrator - $98,000
  • Information Security Analyst - $99,600
  • Psychologist - $89,200
  • Medical and Health Services Manager - $99,000
  • IT Manager - $100,100
  • Mathematician - $101,500
  • Statistician - $105,200
  • Pediatrician - $167,800
  • Nurse Practitioner - $116,700
  • Orthodontist - $247,900

Chart of Percentage in the Field

The total of earned STEM bachelor’s degrees between men and women was 64% male and 36% female. In the workforce, women in STEM careers continued to be underrepresented, specifically in science and engineering. Even though women hold half of the degrees in the US, only 28% of them are employed in science and engineering fields. These professionals are employed in higher numbers in biological, environmental life and agricultural sciences, holding 48% of the positions. Sixty percent of women hold positions in social sciences—and only 15% are employed as engineers; 26% in computer and mathematical sciences occupations.

STEM Education and Potential Salary

Income given for each career is based on how much you might make with some experience under your belt, or later in your career. And this is just skimming the surface of the options available. Not listed are computer system administrator, web developer, mechanical engineer, civil engineer, actuary, cartographer, nurse anesthetist, dentist, physician assistant, and many more.

  • Degree in Mechanical Engineering
    Career Option: Automation and Robotics
    Average Salary: $70,500
    Women in Position: 12%
    Job Growth Potential: 1.57 annually; 4.23 overall
  • Degree in Agricultural and Biological Engineering
    Career Option: Agricultural Engineer
    Average Salary: $60,500
    Women in Position: Less than 1%
    Job Growth Potential: 8%
  • Degree in Data Science
    Career Option: Data science and data analysts
    Average Salary: $60,200
    Women in Position: 24-31%
    Job Growth Potential: 34%
  • Degree in Electrical and Engineering
    Career Option: Electrical Engineer
    Average Salary: $75,400
    Women in Position: 12%
    Job Growth Potential: 9%
  • Degree in Information Systems
    Career Option: Information Security Analyst
    Average Salary: $71,700
    Women in Position: 24%
    Job Growth Potential: 28%
  • Degree in Physics
    Career Option: Physics Professor
    Average Salary: $99,600
    Women in Position: 16%
    Job Growth Potential: 14%
  • Degree in Computer Science
    Career Option: Computer and Information Research Scientists
    Average Salary: $153,600
    Women in Position: 27%
    Job Growth Potential: 19%
  • Degree in Materials Engineering
    Career Option: Materials Engineer
    Average Salary: $139,600
    Women in Position: 13%
    Job Growth Potential: 2%
  • Degree in Computer Science
    Career Option: Software Developer
    Average Salary: $106,700
    Women in Position: 14%
    Job Growth Potential: 24%

Grants and Scholarships for Women in STEM

Women are vital to STEM professions, but they make up a small part of the overall employment numbers in almost all STEM fields. The exception is biomedical engineering, where women make up around 40% of the entire field in the US.

While they are still in elementary school, girls who say they are interested in science, engineering, computers, or math are often discouraged by the reactions of teachers and even parents. Movies such as “Hidden Figures” and television shows such as “The Big Bang Theory” heavily feature female characters who work as biologists, human computers, and chemists. So why has this not translated to real life?

When high school girls do decide to declare a STEM major on entering college, they usually need help in paying for their classes, books, and tuition. Thus, scholarships are vital to their goals. Grants and scholarships don’t have to be geared solely to women—as long as they are able to apply, they have an opportunity. However, those meant specifically for women increase the likelihood that the presence of women in certain fields will increase.

Once women break into a STEM profession, they will still have to fight stereotypes and discrimination. There’s no reason that they should also have to fight for their scholarships or grants. If you are a woman looking to get into STEM, make sure you apply to any and all scholarships that you can. Not only will it help you make it through college with less debt, but it’ll look great on a resume or to future educational institutions.