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Monday, June 24, 2019

Keys to understanding women’s participation in STEM careers

While gender inequality is present in all areas of society, there are certain sectors in which the gap is more marked. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers are one of the clearest examples of areas in which women have had fewer opportunities and faced more barriers. 

Historically, women have come up against stereotypes that discourage them from choosing a STEM career. Prejudices affect them starting with the roles assigned within the family and continue from elementary school through college, when they choose a major, and then in the workplace. 

Current forecasts suggest that digitalization will create over one million jobs in the next five years, a high percentage of which will be for STEM-based professions. However, according to Chile’s Ministry of Women and Gender Equity, in Chile just one in four students enrolled in this area in 2018 were women.

So, how can we encourage women to participate in STEM careers?

Eliminating stereotypes

Several studies have shown that there are no biological differences between the sexes in the neural mechanism of learning , so gender differences do not impact academic ability. 

We should stop referring to careers in the Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics “as male.” 

Showing women role models

Only 17 women have won the Nobel Prize for Physics, Chemistry or Medicine since Marie Curie was given the award in 1903. During that same period, 572 men have won. We need to use real examples to show that women should demand their space in industry.

Using fun to foster curiosity

Girls should not be forced to learn, but we should foster curiosity through fun activities. Practical workshops can be used to encourage them to participate in STEM-related experiences.

Encouraging inclusive initiatives in the workplace

If you are the leader of a company, let your employees balance their family life and work. Encourage women to develop their talents and seek out opportunities for professional growth within your organization.

For its part, APEC Chile is working to promote women’s participation in non-traditional or male-dominated sectors through the Women, SMEs and Inclusive Growth priority.

The forum has focused on studying new ways of attracting and retaining women’s talent in STEM careers. It also has analyzed experiences in order to understand how industries in Chile and other economies address this challenge, for example, through capacity building and implementing tools within the company.

Source: APEC, APEC Women in STEM, Unesco

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