Guest post by Aurora
With only 28% of women making up the science and engineering workforce, it’s no secret that women are underrepresented in these fields. It’s vital to get more girls into STEM at younger ages, and to reach gender equality isn’t the only reason. Here are three reasons it’s important to keep girls engaged in STEM throughout their lives.
1. Diversity Produces Better Results
If you have a team of scientists trying to solve a problem, and they’re all from the same background, they tend to think the same way. Not exactly the same, of course, but their perspectives will tend to align.
Multiple scientific studies have been done that show more diverse groups have more creative solutions to problems. When there are a variety of voices in the discussion, you get a variety of ideas. Additionally, when a group is diverse, they tend to challenge each others’ preconceived notions more frequently, meaning in addition to fresh ideas, they don’t let bad or old ideas go uncontested.
Increasing the number of girls in STEM means bringing more diverse voices, thoughts, and ideas into vital discussions in every situation, whether that’s in the board room or on a patient’s health team. This can have far-reaching consequences quite literally throughout the world.
2. It Can Save Lives
When the airbag in cars was first invented, they used the average male height and weight at the time to calibrate it. This meant that, when women were involved in crashes and the airbag was deployed, it caused dozens of injuries and fatalities before it was recalibrated.
It’s not just in history. Today, there is no standard female-sized crash dummy to test car safety. This puts every female driver on the road at greater risk for injury or death than males. If there were more women in the field of car engineering, they would have had more opportunity to speak up and either ask for a female crash dummy or even design their own.
This trend spans industries. The average temperature in office buildings was determined by looking at the metabolic rate of the average male. However, women’s metabolic rate is higher, and this means women are more likely to be cold in their workplace. While temperature is less serious than car crashes, it still means women are potentially less productive, because they’re cold.
A full 57% of women have said that the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to complete their work safely reported that this equipment sometimes or significantly hampered their ability to do so. This is because most PPE is designed based on male bodies. This directly puts women in danger, as respirators, uniforms, and even body armor are essential pieces of safety equipment for a variety of careers, and if they don’t fit, they don’t work correctly.
Getting more girls involved in STEM at a young age means they grow up to solve these problems, and help literally save lives in a wide range of industries.
3. To Utilize Opportunities
STEM jobs have long been the jobs of the future. Right now, these jobs remain the hardest for employers to fill. This gap between available jobs and those who have the talent to do them is only going to get wider.
Encouraging girls to become interested in STEM fields means when they graduate, they’ll be primed to seize the opportunities these open jobs are offering. This is not only beneficial to the individual women, but to the global economy as well. Research has shown increasing the amount of women in STEM can boost the global manufacturing practice by $12 billion.
Keeping girls interested in STEM fields when they’re young means they have access to these jobs and can take advantage of the opportunities to build meaningful careers for themselves. This then circles back to adding their unique ideas and opinions into decision-making processes, thus increasing diversity and productivity.
We need more girls in STEM for a lot of reasons, the most important of which is equality. While the number of women in these fields has been rising, it’s not there yet. A foundation of equality will keep more girls in STEM so they can diversify ideas, save lives, and take advantage of opportunities.
Aurora is a professional writer and editor with a passion for health and fitness. She has written extensively about STEM for a rad EdTech company in Silicon Valley and for STEMToyExpert.com