Many people think that females and males are equal in the eyes of society, in the work force, in the home. I know I used to think this. I grew up being told I could be anything I wanted right up until high school where I faced direct racism. Still, I some how convinced myself that it was an issue in one general area, the trade schools and jobs. As time went on, I thought females had broken the glass ceiling in other industries at least. I have raised my daughters to believe they can be anything they want to be, thinking that the playing field is finally level. But is it?
My bubble was burst this past week when I asked my husband a curious question. You see he is in a class far away for a few months learning about programming/hacking. It is a very expensive, very exciting, and very challenging class! I found myself jealous of the 19 other students in his class who are getting to spend the majority hours in a day with my husband learning some fantastic things.
I asked: “So how many girls are in your class?”
I didn’t really expect the answer to break my heart. It did however.
Husband told me. “Not a single one.”
While the wife in me might have felt a little more secure thinking at least no one would be flirting with my very hot and brilliant husband, the woman in me was freaking the heck out as my heart was breaking. Yes, even after being married for near 19 years, I still get a bit irrationally jealous. In this case though, while standing outside a hotel that day alone, a married military soldier blatantly hit on me and was inappropriate. While I trust my love, and he has given me no reason not to trust him, I don’t like the idea of women hitting on him. Is that sexist or untrusting of me as I don’t worry about gay men hitting on him? I guess that is a post for another day! The point is….. what does this class say about women in STEM these days if anything.
20 Students and all of them are Male. Husband has taken other such classes and I don’t recall a single female. When asked my husband said he has seen females in the building and know of one female personally in the field he is working in. One.
What is going on? Girls can program! Girls can be hackers! Where are they?
FACTS ABOUT STEM AND GIRLS
The fact is, in highschool girls ARE preforming on par with boys in mathematics and science on standardized tests. (racial and income gaps are still an issue!)
Male students were more likely than female students to take engineering (3% versus 1%) and computer science courses (7% versus 4%) and enrolled in AP computer science A at a much higher rate (81% males; 19% females)
So from the start we know that females can keep up with males on the all important tests, but then for some reason, they just are not enrolling in AP computer science. Why? It isn’t because we are not smart enough!
When we look at higher education the numbers are heart breaking in my opinion. While half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences are to females, Girls receive far fewer in the computer sciences (17.9%), engineering (19.3%), physical sciences (39%) and mathematics (43.1%)
Computer sciences is still over 80% MALE. Why? In the age of technology what is keeping females out of this field?
WHY IS STEM CLOSED OFF TO GIRLS?
I don’t have the answers as to why girls are not equally represented in the STEM fields. My eyes are now more open to the issue though and as a Mother of 6 daughters, and a geek. We must as a society do better. I know I need to help my daughters fight to make sure STEM matters in their lives and doors are open to them.