The STEM Gender Gap

September 7, 2018 • Volume 28, Issue 31
Can science and tech attract more women?
By Stephen Ornes

Introduction

Danielle Richey, a Lockheed Martin software engineer (Cover: Getty Images/The Denver Post/Andy Cross)
Danielle Richey, a Lockheed Martin software engineer, helps middle school student Kayla Burby design a splashdown recovery system for the Orion spacecraft that Lockheed is helping to build for NASA. The two teamed up at the Girls Exploring Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (GESTEM) event hosted by the Society of Women Engineers in Denver in 2016. Researchers say such hands-on programs could help reduce the gender gap in STEM fields. (Cover: Getty Images/The Denver Post/Andy Cross)

Women lag far behind men as a share of the workforce in most science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions, even as demand for those skills increases in order to help the United States remain globally competitive. Some women abandon STEM careers because of sexual harassment or other forms of gender discrimination, and some have sued employers over such conduct. In other cases, girls or young women face obstacles in their schooling that discourage them from pursuing STEM careers. Those obstacles, experts say, include cultural biases that teach girls they are less skilled than boys in math and science, despite research findings to the contrary. Advocates urge stronger efforts by schools and tech companies to hire and retain women in STEM jobs and to address the issues that can cause them to leave the field. But some analysts attribute at least some of the gender gap to educational or career choices made by women themselves.

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