Women and girls are changing the world in science. Here’s why they need to be and some inspiring examples.
There have been efforts by the global community to inspire and engage women and girls in science. Unfortunately, women and girls continue to be a minority in the science world. Less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women.
According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the chances of female students graduating with a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate in a science-related field are 18%, 8%, and 2%, respectively. Compare those figures to the percentages of male students at 37%, 18%, and 6%.
In the UK, for example, aside from the fact that women make up half of the workplace, they account for only 14.4% of STEM workers.
In celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we would like to explain a bit about the importance of this day as well as give examples of women and girls who are changing the world in science.
What is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science?
The United Nations declared February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. They want to further achieve gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, especially in the world of science.
In today’s world, with the serious issues that are affecting our future, such as climate change, there are great challenges that rely on the talents of all people, including those of women and girls. Therefore, more females need to be involved in the typically “male-dominated” industry of science. The world of science needs fresh perspectives, talent, and creativity. And the International Day of Women and Girls in Science is a reminder that women and girls play a major role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened.
Why Women Need to Be in Science
There are many reasons why women should be more involved in science. As we mentioned above, the world of science needs as many minds as possible, brining new and different perspectives, talent, and creativity. Here are some more reasons why women are needed in science and research:
1. Gender Gap
Women make up half the workforce and earn more college and graduate degrees than men, however there’s still a gender gap in science. And the gender gap in science is more than in other professions, specifically in high-end, math-intensive fields like computer science and engineering.
2. Increasing Relevance
By including women in research, more women will be attracted to the field of science. And more careers and avenues of research will become relevant to women.
3. Range of Inventions
Women are needed in research so there can be more of a range of inventions and scientific breakthroughs that result from looking at problems differently than men typically do.
Types of Science Degrees Celebrated on This Day
You may have heard of the term STEM. It refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These are the major fields that International Day of Women and Girls in Science celebrates and hopes to bring awareness to. Within the STEM fields, there are lots of specific degrees. Popular STEM degrees include: computer science, management information systems, software engineering, mathematics, physics, natural sciences, and life sciences.
Why Are Women Less Involved in Computer Science?
Computer science is a massive industry which has been overwhelmingly male-dominated. And if you’re curious as to why, there is a predominant theory.
Before the home computer was introduced in the early 1980s, more women were taking computer science degrees. But the numbers steadily dropped as computers in the home became more common. Research has been done to find the reason for this drop in female computer science majors and the main conclusion is that the first personal computers were mainly for early gaming systems that catered to males. Marketing was directed to meet the needs of men more so than women. The result was that more men were purchasing computers for personal use, and thus the beginning of the professional world of computer science became male-dominated.
Currently, the state of girls and women in computer science is still not ideal. Did you know that boys outnumber girls 4:1 in computer science exams in American high schools? Considering the state we’re in today and the relevance of computer science in today’s tech-filled world, there are many ways in which girls and women can be inspired to get more involved.
Ways to Get Girls Interested in Computer Science
Two-thirds of elementary-aged children indicate an interest in science, but as they start middle school, the percentage of interested girls decreases substantially. This shows that there is a real desire, but something along the way reduces that desire, resulting in a minority of females in the STEM fields. And today, Computer science jobs matter more than ever before. So let’s go through approaches we can all take to increase the female interest in computer science:
1. Create an Equal Learning Environment
Educators should be engaging both boys and girls in class discussions, rather than allowing the boys to control the dialogue.
2. Create Mentorship Programs
Girls can be inspired with examples of successful women in technology. Girls who go into the field of computer science are more likely to face resistance. Women can serve as strong and successful role models. In the elementary and secondary level, women in the field can come as case studies and show girls that it’s possible as well as something to strive towards. Inspirational videos are also a great and relevant way to inspire girls in this day and age.
3. Make the Field Approachable
Programs such as Girls Who Code, SciGirls, GEMS, GirlsINC., and Girlstart have all been introduced to create an interest in girls and young women into the field of computer science.
4. Show how computer science is relevant in many fields.
If girls understand that the field can be relevant to many professions, such as medicine, business, and law, it could increase the chances of them choosing computer science as a field of study.
5. Change Classroom Stereotypes
An experiment showed how stereotypes are a major factor involved when girls are choosing whether or not to take a computer science class. They found that girls feel as though they don’t belong. This means a broader image of computer science needs to be portrayed which also means not perpetuating old images and stereotypes.
We also have an article worth checking out about how to get kids into computer science and coding. It shows us ways in which parents as well as educators can approach computer science when introducing the field to kids.
How to Make a Difference
Computer science is only one part of STEM. The whole STEM arena is vast and has so much potential for women to get involved.
One great idea involves putting an “A” in the term.
STEM should become “STEAM.” The director of MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program suggests putting the arts and humanities into the term. This way, STEM can be approached in a more fun, playful, and creative way. Storytelling is also a new approach to attracting women to STEM. By creating a narrative and allowing girls to see STEM ideas as more relatable and playful, it can only benefit them as well as the world.
Examples of Women Who Are Changing the World of Science
Okay, now you have some ideas as to how females can be inspired to enter computer science as well as the STEM field. Now we want to show you some examples of girls and women that are making a dent in the world of science.
1. Jennifer Doudna
Jennifer is an American inventor of a groundbreaking technology for editing genomes, named CRISPR-Cas9. CRISPR technology can be used to change the DNA of the HIV virus in human cells. Doudna is considered to be one of the greatest living scientists and can serve as a powerful role model.
2. Rada Mihalcea
received the 2018 Carol Hollenshead Award for her work in increasing the retention of women in engineering and computer science. She is developing programs that introduce more women to the world of computing and encourage them to pursue graduate studies and research careers in the field.
3. Regina Agyara
is a software developer from Ghana. She launched Soronko Solutions, which creates interactive learning platforms. She’s passionate about boosting young women interested in her field with her mentorship program.
4. Daphna Nissenbaum and Kira Radinksy
are both from Israel. Nissenbaum is a computer engineer, co-founder, and CEO of Tipa, a company that develops 100% biodegradable and compostable packaging for food and beverages. Co-founder Radinsky constructs algorithms, one in which warns about globally impactful events.
5. Maria Klawe
is the president of Harvey Mudd College and is a computer scientist and mathematician. Half of the students who graduate with degrees in computer science, engineering, and physics are women. She’s dedicated to closing the gender gap in science, especially in computer science.
STEM Girls Who Are Changing the World
If you want proof that children are our future, here are some inspiring examples of girls around the world that are changing the future. And the future is in science.
Indian Girls Code in India is an initiative by Robotix. It’s a free hands-on coding and robotics education program for underprivileged girls. They also focus on supporting underprivileged girls.
Destination Imagination in Singapore is a non-profit, volunteer-led, cause-driven organization. They aim to inspire and equip students to be the future’s innovators and leaders. They encourage girls to apply their creativity and imagination to technical challenges.
Tech Needs Girls in Ghana is from Soronko Solutions, which was mentioned above regarding its founder Regina Agyara. It’s a movement and a mentorship program that hopes to get more women and girls to create technology. The program has already trained 4,500 girls by matching them with 200 computer scientist and engineer mentors and role models.
Whether it’s computer science, neuroscience, or biology, girls and women are needed to participate more than ever before. As the saying goes, the more the merrier. So let’s applaud those making a change in the world of science and look forward to the future.
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