Why Women Should Consider a Career in STEM
A career in STEM is a career in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics. STEM careers are great to get into, as there is a skills shortage in most of these fields. They also often have very few women. This is true globally, as well as in South Africa. Worldwide, only 10% of young women show an interest in pursuing a STEM career. Globally, only 14% of the entire STEM workforce are female, with the statistics in South Africa even lower, at 7% – half of the global number!
Why are there so few women in STEM?
Most of the reasons for this are the result of historical gender bias, which has no place in today’s modern society:
- Girls historically have not been raised with expectations of becoming an engineer, doctor or scientist. Certain jobs have been traditionally marked on a gender basis. Even watching very young children at play, you will often find a small girl “teaching” her teddies, or playing a game of Doctor and Nurse – usually the little girl would be the nurse, and the little boy will play the doctor.
- Also, in the past it was thought that women are not as adept in maths and science, or indeed, any subjects requiring numerical ability, science or logic. Worldwide, female children have not been encouraged to pursue STEM-type subjects at school in the past.
- Some people hold the conservative view that STEM jobs are not feminine, and that it is not good for women to be (or appear to be) too intelligent. These gender-biased views have no basis in fact. There is no shame in being intelligent!
In South Africa, our STEM figures are terrible overall, and there is a critical skills shortage in STEM fields. This means that we don’t have enough people to fill these jobs. In 2014, only 9% of matriculants chose to follow STEM fields of study, and in 2015, only 10% of all matriculants passed with marks good enough in Maths and Science to grant them university access. South African learners ranked 148th out of 148 countries in the quality of Maths and Science, according to a recent World Economic Forum report on Education.
Why should women consider a career in STEM?
- You are more likely to get a job upon graduation with a STEM degree. This is due to the skills shortage in these fields. Eight out of the top 10 scarce skills occupations are STEM related. This is according to a Department of Higher Education and Training report in the 2014 Government Gazette.
- You are more likely to keep working in the future as the trend for STEM jobs is not slowing anytime soon. By 2020, almost 80% of all jobs will require STEM skills according to a recent STEM report.
- You are likely to earn well. According to the same report, people in careers requiring STEM skills earn almost double to most others in non-STEM fields.
- STEM jobs are exciting and constantly evolving. We are discovering new technology and developing new innovations almost daily! These developments ensure that you’ll never be bored in a career in STEM.
- STEM jobs make the world a better place and improve the quality of people’s lives! Consider all the work done by engineers in designing and building ever newer modes of transport and safer environments. Think of the work of doctors, physiotherapists, other medical professionals and scientists. They save lives and improve the quality of those lives. Consider those involved in Information Technology fields who provide us with constant, amazing innovations in our digital world.
- As a STEM student, your skills are in hot demand! Those with the skills to offer maths lessons or organic chemistry tutoring will likely be busy. Furthermore, if you can tutor these types of subjects in Afrikaans, you are rare indeed! Contact BrightSparkz Tutors to apply now!
There are programmes running worldwide and in South Africa to encourage women to pursue STEM careers.
Here are some of them:
- In the US, Morehead State University runs a Space Trek programme. Students design satellites to send into orbit; currently 30% of the students in the Space Science degree are female.
- MEDO (the Meta Economic Development Organisation), based in Cape Town, has used high school girls to design the payload of a satellite which went into orbit in early 2016. (https://www.brandsouthafrica.com/investments-immigration/science-technology/girls-in-space-africa-s-first-private-satellite-designed-by-schoolgirls).
- The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) runs an initiative called African Women in Stem (AWIS). https://www.aims.ac.za/en/about/news-and-publications/aims-news/encouraging-young-women-to-enter-the-exciting-world-of-science
- SA Wise (the Association of South African Women in Science and Engineering), aims to strengthen the roles of women in science and engineering jobs. http://www.sawise.uct.ac.za/
- WomEng (Women in Engineering) aims to promote engineering as a great career choice for females and they run various initiatives in South Africa and Kenya, amongst other countries. http://www.womeng.org/
If you are considering a career in STEM, and are keen on more information, watch this space! We will be covering several of the STEM fields and talking with some of the young women currently studying in those fields. As such, you will get first-hand perspective from those already walking the path.
If you would like a tutor to help you achieve your dreams of entering a career in STEM, please let us know! Our excellent Maths tutors, Physical Science tutors, Biology tutors and IT tutors would be happy to help.
Written by Natalie Wilke, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer