Women have suffered great inequality from men in terms of academic opportunities for much of history. Women did not even have the right to vote until the early 20th century. Then, women were expected to stay home and take care of the children while doing mundane housework. The men were the ones who were expected to go to work and to make money to provide for the women. Women were taught from society that they were incapable of doing man’s work as evidenced by “The 19th-century British science popularizes Mary Somerville, who might have done original research under better circumstances, wrote that she had ‘perseverance and intelligence but no genius...That spark from heaven is not granted to the [female] sex’” (Das, 2013, p. 1). While women did possess the mental capability to have scientific thought, males inhibited them from exercising their mental thought due to their desire to maintain power in society. Most parents discouraged their daughters from pursuing higher level education because they wanted to protect them from overusing their brains. Das also wrote, “They think their daughters would not be able to handle the mental and the physical pressures caused by intellectual studies as men did” (p. 1). The historic society did not only believe that women should not pursue academics, but also that pursuing the academics would hurt their brains. However, men were completely capable of using their minds to do university level thinking.
Until recently, women have been discouraged to attend college and to obtain jobs outside of the home. When women first entered the work field, they would work mainly secretaries or teachers. Since more women have been attending college than in the past, women have been showing more interest in working in professional fields. As a result, more women have recently attended law school, medical school, and have pursued professional careers. In fact, more women now enter graduate school than men. However, there is still inequality in the number of males versus females working in scientific fields. Women have been underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for the duration of the technology advancement.
Since women are vastly underrepresented in the fields of STEM, there have been some initiatives geared toward females pursuing careers in STEM such as the non-profit organization, Project Syncere. Project Syncere aims their efforts toward minorities, females, and the underserved youth by marketing STEM toward those populations and by offering affordable technological classes to teach them about specific technological programs. This organization also uses powerful women in the field of STEM to serve as mentors toward females who may have never been motivated to pursue a career in science.
Review of interventions
Much research has been aimed at the idea of women in the field of technology. For example, Sheana Ahlquist, Bonita London, and Lisa Rosenthahl researched the idea of unstable identity compatibility and how gender rejection undermines the success of women in science, technology, and mathematical fields (Ahlqvist, London, Rosenthal, 2013, p. 1650). The researchers noted that men outnumber women in most STEM fields and as a result, female scientists in the US are at risk of perceiving conflict between their gender and STEM identities. The researchers predicted that gender rejection sensitivity and unstable gender compatibility would undermine women's subjective belonging and academic performance. The researchers had 146 female STEM majors complete a questionnaire that assessed baseline levels of gender rejection sensitivity, gender-STEM compatibility, and subjective-belonging variables and self-reported high school GPA (p. 1652). During the second semester, the participants completed weekly surveys for fourteen weeks. Then, the participants completed follow-up measures of gender-STEM compatibility during their second year of college.
This study was untraditional because it was the first study to analyze whether the longitudinal stability of identity compatibility could predict women’s favorable outcome in areas of STEM. The study’s results concluded that undergraduate women who majored in STEM had higher gender rejection sensitivity correlated within person fluctuations in perceived compatibility between gender and STEM identities (p. 1653). Interestingly, these fluctuations occurred when the student was deciding their possible core areas of study during the spring semester of their freshman year. Female students often feel discouraged when they do not see many other females in their classes and there are also normally few female role models among instructors to help guide them. Also, these feelings of uncertainty are reinforced by gendered cues such as video games geared toward males specifically. These findings suggest the significance of studying individual differences and situational variables (p. 1654). Females are not born uninterested in STEM, but society’s expectation and gendered cues make females less inclined to study STEM. When females do study STEM, they perform just as well as their male counterparts.
More research was conducted that pursued the idea that role models and informally related activities positively can impact female interest in STEM. Project Syncere uses these ideas to motivate females to study STEM. In this research, Katherine Weber studied the formal and informal learning opportunities that are necessary to be instilled in females to pursue interested related to STEM careers (Weber, 2011, p. 18). She notes how the U.S’s economy is dependent on citizenry that possesses scientific and technical skills within STEM for growth. Normally, the growing popularity in pursuing STEM careers requires a bachelor’s degree. Due to this increasing labor field, the leaders in STEM careers must determine possible ways to incite more interest in STEM toward women.
Women are vastly underrepresented in STEM careers, which is a disservice to society since more and more women are entering the workforce. Weber analyzed ways to recruit more females in this field. She mentions the significance for females of having a parent in a career related to STEM. If a female does not have a parent who works in a STEM related career, she is less likely to pursue a scientific career. However, female college professors are often a viable resource in recruiting females toward science. For example, California University of Pennsylvania received the Campus Action Project grant from the American Association for University Women. Their focus was “breaking through barriers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics for women and girls” (p. 19). The faculty team enacted a project that aimed to fight off stereotypes or a lack of familial support pursuing a STEM career. The California University STEM Initiative (CSI) wanted to inspire middle school girls to explore the STEM world. 58 females participated in some of these planned activities. For example, the academic leaders developed an ongoing event called “girls night out” at the California middle school that was geared toward different areas of engineering and science each night. These events had activity stations that aimed at sparking interest and career awareness in the middle-school aged girls. The researcher found that the girls held a more positive view toward STEM after the workshop. Weber compared pre-surveys with post-surveys, which indicated that the number of students interested in pursuing a career in an engineering-related field increased by 18.2%, the number of students interest in becoming engineers increased by 9.4%, and the number of students how may want to become an engineer increased by 25% (p. 20). As a result, this research suggests the significance of afterschool and summer programs in inciting interest in STEM among females.
Further research has been conducted on the productiveness of an after school environmental science program geared toward increasing female students’ interest in science careers. In 2009, President Obama created an initiative entitled, “Educate to Innovate,” which emphasized the value of STEM education and the need for more females to pursue this area. Tandra Wood and Amber Ellison researched the effects of programs that work toward implementing the new initiative. Bringing Up Girls in Science (BUGS) is a demonstration project funded by gender equity division of the National Science Foundation (Wood & Ellison, 2011, p. 46). The study included 32 girls in 4th and 5th grades from an urban Texan community. Eight years have passed since the fulfillment of the BUGS project; Ellison and Wood desired to examine the short-term effects of the BUGS program on female students’ scientific knowledge and also the long-term effectiveness on female students’ perceptions on STEM careers (p. 47). The results showed that participation in the BUGS program did suggest advancement in the girls’ scientific achievement. So, this research reinforces the importance of legitimate STEM experiences to students’ learning.
Ana Ramos and Nuria Bosch studied international mobility of women in science and technological careers. The progressive nature of STEM has led to globalization and more people moving outside of US to work as highly skilled personnel for training and work purposes. Ramos and Bosch analyzed this international mobility from a gender perspective with a special interested in the women involved in STEM. The growing international inundation of highly skilled women has led to more powerful women in the job market, which has caused more women to pursue work in international technological mobility. Since women are still underrepresented in this field are not given the same respect as men, this new mobility shift is a positive shift in society. For this research, 50 men and women were asked to discuss the effects of mobility on their job duties (Ramos & Bosch, 2013, p. 617). They wrote, “A key aim of this article is to explore how women adjusted their professional trajectories and personal decisions according to the demands of international careers, and how they conducted their lives abroad” (p. 617). The fact these researchers were even interested in this topic does show how far society has come from the days when women were not even able to vote.
The qualitative research gave an interesting glimpse into why many women chose to leave the U.S. to pursue a career in STEM. They found, “International mobility can thus offer an opportunity for women in S&T to overcome career obstacles in their home countries which are related to gender discrimination and disadvantage” (p. 624). There is still a stigma attached to women who want to pursue a career in STEM. Many men still deem women incapable of performing such tasks and some hiring bosses still will hire male candidates over female candidates. As a result, women yearn to escape the stigma and judgment by moving overseas to be able to work in their desired field. The participants overall seemed to be quite content with their decision to relocate for work and enjoy working in international technological mobility.
Women have come a long way since the days when their main duties were to raise the children and to maintain a clean house. While more women are attending graduate school than men and are actively seeking professional careers, there is still a disparity between men and women in their goals to pursue a career in STEM. There are societal and familial reasons for this disparity. Often, teachers aim the STEM subjects toward the males because those fields are dominated by males. However, this lack of awareness of women in STEM is inhibiting capable females of pursuing their own possible interest in STEM. Fortunately, there have been some initiatives recently that have focused on making STEM more attractive to females. In addition, these females often perform well in these fields despite the societal stereotype that they cannot perform as well as males. Women are becoming a greater force in this field and are even becoming an international force is performing STEM duties.
Project Syncere is a successful organization in its efforts in bringing more females, along with other underserved youth, to careers in STEM. The organizational leaders want to market the sciences to young females and to give them the opportunity to learn about technology since they may not have the opportunity otherwise. The leaders understand the stigma of women in STEM, and therefore, they realize the significance of showing successful female role models. Project Syncere has already brought many females to consider pursuing a career in STEM and will continue to bring leaders to the STEM field.
Ahlqvist, S., London, B., & Rosenthal, L. (2013). Unstable Identity Compatibility: How Gender Rejection Sensitivity Undermines the Success of Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields. Psychological Science (Sage Publications Inc.), 24(9), 1644-1652. doi:10.1177/0956797613476048
Das, M. (2013). Woman and Internet: A Philosophical Study of Gender Inequality Between Male and Female. Golden Research Thoughts, 3(1), 1-5.
González Ramos, A. M., & Bosch, N. (2013). International mobility of women in science and technology careers: shaping plans for personal and professional purposes. Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal Of Feminist Geography, 20(5), 613-629. doi:10.1080/0966369X.2012.701198
Tyler-Wood, T., Ellison, A., Lim, O., & Periathiruvadi, S. (2012). Bringing Up Girls in Science (BUGS): The Effectiveness of an Afterschool Environmental Science Program for Increasing Female Students' Interest in Science Careers. Journal Of Science Education & Technology, 21(1), 46-55. doi:10.1007/s10956-011-9279-2
Weber, K. (2011). Role Models and Informal STEM-Related Activities Positively Impact Female Interest in STEM. Technology & Engineering Teacher, 71(3),