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Women and Girls in STEM

STEM education has become more and more important, and it is required for an interconnected global economy. The acronym refers to a range of academic disciplines, such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, meant to bring a significant and beneficial contribution to the training offered by the education system in these fields. They provide workforce development, shaping the students’ vision according to the market requirements. We should mention the STEM initiative proposed by Georgette Yakman, the one who has introduced art among these disciplines, believing that there is a connexion between them, complying with the global socio-economic system.

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The advancement of STEM fields is vital, and we need as many specialists as possible to work in these fields. However, women have always had a poor image, suffering from discouragement or discrimination, which has led to the destruction of the desire of building a career in this direction. Thus, almost half of the global potential is wasted, and this slows down the process of getting the much-desired progress.

In 2012 the United States launched the so-called Equal Futures Partnership, in order to provide a solution to this problem. The initiative lays in involving 22 countries in order to identify the drawbacks faced by women who are interested in taking part in the economical and political life. Depending on their own problems, each state has committed to facilitate the integration of women in STEM, by promoting civic education and leadership for girls, and by increasing the support provided for female entrepreneurs.

In order to properly address the situation, it is necessary to understand the women’s position in this context. Although they are in low number, researches show that women bring a 33% profit above average when they work in some STEM fields, and they prove to be very productive. However, they have lower wages than men. But the way in which they get involved in studying these disciplines during school is different from the level of interest shown by boys. If at the end of the 8th grade boys tend to choose future courses to pave the way for science or engineering, girls opt for the business world or managerial positions. Things change in the last years of high school when, regardless of gender, students want to pursue a career in science or mathematics. The only difference is in the engineering field, the percentage of girls who aspire to such a career being lower. It can be noticed that women generally prefer to work with people, having artistic and social interests, while men prefer to work with objects, having a common and realistic sense.

The possible reasons leading to the involvement of women in STEM are the lack of support in these fields and the numerical dominance of men. Thus, they opt for humanist professions, choosing to become teachers, psychologists, sociologists, etc. Another obstacle is represented by the women who have a successful career in a male-dominated environment. Instead of opening new doors to them, they become the main opponents of their future co-workers. The explanation to such a behavior is that these women believe that the low number of the fair sex is not a proof of negative stereotypes, but they consider themselves to be an exception to the rule, arguing that their success has come from the assignment of their own special merits.

However, there are some solutions which can lead to a turnabout. A basic example is combating stereotypes by simply convincing individuals that they exist and that they should be avoided. Also, promoting successful models is a good way of encouragement. The power of example stimulates motivation, making women believe in their abilities, and that they can reach the success which others did not find impossible to achieve. Facilitating access to mentors is also essential, keeping young girls interested in a STEM career. Self-affirmation has the same effect. Young girls inspire others, and become models for them, by finding the courage to talk about their passion and about the career they want to pursue.

EduSoft promotes the presence of girls in the STEM fields, and in this regard we organize an Informatics Contest for Girls, “The Beauty of Code – The Code of Beauty“, and an workshop on STEM, in which several students from the Republic of Moldavia have taken part.

Gabriela Tăbăcaru

(translated by Raluca Marin)