Author: Lillian Hou
Editors: Galiba Anjum and Cynthia Zhang
Artist: Doris Tan
In the field of STEM, the lack of female representation has been a significant focus of social scientists and decision-makers. Studies have consistently shown that men and women receive the same training and teaching before pursuing their chosen career, which brings up the question if women are just as capable as boys, why can’t they find an equal amount of jobs as men in the STEM field?
This phenomenon can be traced back to the methods of education from parents in countries where citizens are not actively advocating for gender equality, and the fact that many parents do not educate girls about STEM-related knowledge, or inspire them to find their passion in the field when they are young. However, this still doesn’t answer the question as to why countries that pay more attention to advocating for gender equality achieve relative success. Do these countries contain more significant numbers of women in STEM?
Studies indicate that they do not. For example, the gender equality index ranks Finland among the top in the world. Finnish parents are more likely to raise their children in an equal manner, ultimately trying to avoid instilling a gender gap. Little girls are out and about, and the boys do not shy away from hobbies deemed "gentle and delicate." In choosing a college major, they have significant autonomy. Fast-forward to landing a job in STEM, and women are met with little to no gender discrimination. But the gender gap in science and engineering in Finnish universities is the largest of all countries, and neighboring countries Norway and Sweden, are not that far behind as well. In the three Nordic countries, only 1/4 STEM majors students are women.
In places where genders are relatively equal, girls still do not choose STEM areas. Socialists name this phenomenon the ‘gender equality paradox.’ So, what exactly is the reason?
In most European countries, gender discrimination is relatively low, and the happiness index is relatively high, which ultimately means that people have freedom in choosing jobs. The majority of people can choose what they like and feel comfortable doing. For females, in particular, the majority is more willing to be in a stable and healthy environment, rather than a position that puts an overwhelming amount of stress on them. However, according to numerous studies, in countries with lower gender equality levels, the quality of life and burden they take upon ends up forcing women to work in the “higher earning” STEM area.
As of now, there may not be a definitive answer to this phenomenon at the moment, but the continuous research of the underwhelming number of women in STEM may soon turn the tides. Hopefully, there will eventually be ways to help and inspire women to overcome societal obstacles, fear, and more productively participate in STEM-related fields, with more personal, goal-driven, and passionate motives. The process will take time, but through productive and efficient changes, we will be able to see the number of women in STEM rise.
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You, S. “Why are there so few girls in science and engineering?” 12 Mar. 2018,