Irina Bokova was UNESCO Director General from 2009 to 2017 and in the document “Cracking the Code” published in 2017 she wrote about STEM disparity:
“Only 17 women won a Nobel Prize in Physics, Chemistry or Medicine from Marie Curie in 1903, compared to 572 men. Today, only 28% of all researchers in the world are women. Such profound inequalities do not happen by chance. “
No, they don’t happen by chance. The first reason of all is the gender stereotype. It takes hold already in elementary schools, which alienates many girls from a future career in STEM disciplines. But, it is the UNESCO study that describes the most alarming situation.
“Despite unprecedented progress in expanding access to education, gender equality in education remains elusive. More girls are in school today than ever before, but discrimination based on gender, social and cultural norms and other factors prevent them from having equal opportunities to complete and benefit from an education of their choice. “
What is the STEM disparity?
In an interview, entrepreneur Inna Braverman – who we interviewed on Universe about her technology EcoWave – tells how, when she attended entrepreneurs’ meetings, every idea she had was rejected with these words: “Espresso, please, coffee”.
STEM disparity is the gender gap that limits access and therefore academic preparation and job opportunities in sectors such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This happens already since elementary school. All the studies in the sector have shown that the sectors with the fastest economic expansion and the highest paid salaries are and will be precisely those linked to the science-information sectors. Exactly those in which women still have little say in the matter. Only 21% of engineering majors and 19% of computer science majors are women.
Over time, it is not only women who are paying for it, but society as a whole. The European Institute for Gender Equality shows in a study that overcoming the STEM disparity can lead to significant improvements in the business world. Not only that, but on the contrary, it could also lead to improvements in research and therefore in the economic growth of the European Union as a whole in the coming decades. But engineering and computer science – two of the most profitable STEM fields – remain heavily dominated by men.
A multi-faceted disparity.
There are numerous factors behind this gap, all of which can be traced back to the world education system. Women have significantly more access to education today than even a handful of years ago, but the gap in technical and scientific subjects remains clear. It is a cultural question, which feeds on stereotypes that see those subjects as most suitable for a man and therefore generate a prejudice that is difficult to defeat even for parents.
Clearly, a reduction of women in these roles produces fewer models for girls, who will once again follow the male logic of exclusion of other women or minorities in general. Furthermore, the teachers of these subjects are often women and often fail to convey to the girls the right self-confidence, to do as much as men. Following the so-called myth of the mathematical brain, according to which the male one is predisposed to science while the female one to artistic creative subjects.
In summary, many girls move away from mathematics as early as the third grade. While, as adults, women are underrepresented in the STEM workforce. An American study reports that almost 80% of the healthcare workforce are women, but only about 21% occupy management roles. Conversely, they remain highly represented in the jobs they are undergoing such us nurses. This also happens punctually in information technology and in the engineering sector. The gap also becomes even more drastic not only between women and men but between Latin and black women and white women. A disconcerting reflection of a society that is far from protecting everyone and treating everyone with equal rights.
In one word: evolution.
In conclusion, a quote from the UNESCO document “Cracking the code”
“Multiple and overlapping factors influence girls’ and women’s interest in, and engagement with, STEM, all of which interact in complex ways. Girls’ disadvantage is not based on cognitive ability, but in the socialization and learning processes within which girls are raised and which shape their identity, beliefs, behaviors and choices. “
To deepen the topic