It is no secret that gender disparity exists in STEM fields, but why? Texas sociologist Cathreine Riegle-Crumb and Chelsea Moore, decided to research the root of this gender divide and why in today’s world, it still remains.
After analysis of 10,000 students in nearly 100 schools, Riegle-Crumb discovered that this STEM gender disparity isn’t consistent but that at some schools, girls actually took physics at an equal or greater rate than boys. Although there were still schools in which physics classes were male-dominated, these findings tell us that there are varying factors that lead to whether girls are more likely to take STEM related classes.
A strong influence is local female role models, meaning that in communities with a higher percentage of women working in science, technology, engineering and math, girls were more inclined to register for STEM classes in school. This shows that social context and social norms are key factors for women in STEM and not innate differences between boys and girls.
In an effort to support and encourage girls to pursue STEM, L’Oreal has launched a campaign “For Girls in Science” which promotes the opportunities that are available in STEM fields and shares stories from women currently in STEM careers. Large brands getting involved hope to help to close the gap and make girls in STEM a more mainstream topic. So, although girls may not have females from STEM fields in their community, we can bring them these role models through an online community just as L’Oreal is doing.
How do you help to make a difference and encourage girls in STEM?