In a world where technology is constantly improving, online education can play a key factor in helping with the increasing trend of women studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at the undergraduate level.
The mission to create a world in which education is accessible to everyone is key in creating a productive, stable, forward thinking society. Yet, oftentimes, political and cultural barriers challenge certain demographics from accessing this education, especially for women. This enrollment and achievement gender gap between men and women in education is present both in online and traditional university communities, however women have begun challenging this gap, especially in the fields of Engineering, computer science, and technology.
One of the huge advantages of online university is that it allows students to study anytime, anywhere, completely independent of any environmental obstacles they may face. Therefore, for women seeking an education and career, learning online offers an environment that may help to reduce class structure, sexism, or any bias they face in the public domain. In addition, online learning lessens challenges regarding family and flexibility, helps save money, allows deeper fulfillment of dreams, and assures anonymity. To fully understand the impact of these opportunities, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) reported that over 60% of those studying at online universities are women, the majority over 25 years old. This is a clear reflection of women challenging societal norms, in all stages of their lives, opening new doors and opportunities for themselves and their families. The potential opportunities of Online Education are beneficial for women across the world.
Throughout the history of women studying in a university, the women-dominated majors have been unsurprising to most who have been exposed to traditional university life. Careers in education, nursing, and secretarial work have remained dominant for decades. However, today women have begun permeating new fields of study with a tenacity unseen before. 58% of biology degrees were obtained by women studying in online universities. This shows that when given the opportunity to do so, women have been able to excel immensely in science and other mathematic based degrees, rather than just the traditional fields of study from before.
While women may be emerging in biology and mathematical degrees, women’s participation in science and engineering at the undergraduate level significantly lessens based upon the specific scientific field of study. For example, in 2013, women earned 57.3% of bachelor’s degrees in all fields in 2013 and 50.3% of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees. However, women’s participation in science and engineering exhibits a stark contrast in which fields of science women go into. While women receive over half of bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences (often to further a career in nursing), while only 17.9% pursue computer science and only 19.3% pursue engineering. These numbers are in fact a large improvement from the past, as in 1990, women only represented 10.1% of those studying engineering, it shows that while women have begun breaking new grounds, there is still much improvement needed to be made in many fields of science and math. Hopefully, in the coming years, the increase in percentages will be representative of women in all fields of science, specifically STEM, which online learning provides a pathway to.
The gender gap between men and women in STEM and business administration in higher education may be a slow closing one, however, women have showed consistent progress throughout the 21st century in taking on roles in these fields. In India, over 30% of the 50.1% of women studying at the undergraduate level are studying business or STEM. In both developing and developed countries, there is a clear trend of an increase of women in both undergraduate scientific degree programs and the workforce, however a change still needs to be made.
Through the enrollment in online universities, women can increase their opportunities to lessen or even eliminate the gender and success gaps between men and women, as while they are enrolled in an online university, they are free to work around their other responsibilities such as family, to combat any cultural barriers which may be stopping them from the opportunity to learn, and even allow them to have a seat at a table they may not have been admitted to before simply because of their gender. As citizens of the world, we must see that it is our duty to assist in making education accessible to everyone, regardless of race, sex, or any cultural barriers, and provide valid assistance, feedback, and knowledge to any of those seeking it.