Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries, and firmly believes that by harnessing the full capabilities of science and technology advancement then the world can change for the better. Here she talks about the role of society, especially employers, in giving women talent the opportunities to hone their craft in STEM.

You can promote gender equality by opening doors for career women who want to work in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field.

Gender inequity – real and perceived – still exists in the modern workplace. Women are nearly 10% more likely to experience discrimination in the workplace when employed in the STEM field compared to other verticals.

For women working in STEM professions, the work experience is entirely different compared to their male counterparts. Often, female professionals are subject to a hostile work environment much more so than their male peers.

In the STEM field, it’s still a man’s world

This unfortunate circumstance has come to the forefront of the attention of decision-makers since the debate has grown louder about the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the STEM field. The technology industry is expanding like wildfire. As this occurs, there’s growing concern over the best ways to promote diversity and inclusion among the tech workforce.

The challenges that women face in STEM parallel those faced by women across all industries and fields, although it’s much more pronounced in the tech field. For example, in STEM and other fields, women are equally likely to express that they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Also, both groups are likely to believe that they are treated unusually unfair when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder.

Working women in the United States face even more significant issues than those faced by men, according to a report released by the Pew Research Center. In the STEM field, for instance, women are more likely to admit that they’ve been subject to discrimination compared to other verticals.

The Center's evaluation of U.S. Census Bureau data from 1990 on reveals that the STEM field has grown significantly, especially in computer science. Approximately 50% of all female STEM professionals work in this field.

Nevertheless, the proportion of women who work across various STEM professions varies extensively by industry. For example:

• 95% dental hygienists
• 96% speech language pathologists
• 8% mechanical engineers
• 7% sales engineers

Women are in the majority in the healthcare field; however, they occupy an average of only 14% of engineering roles.

STEM professionals are the most sought-after specialised talent in the employment market. Organisations work hard to attract these professionals, but they often fall short in achieving gender equality.

Preparing young women for work in the STEM field

Gender inequity – real and perceived – still exists in the modern workplace. Women are nearly 10% more likely to experience discrimination in the workplace when employed in the STEM field compared to other verticals.

Female college students earn over 50% of all degrees in biological science, according to a report released by the Women’s Foundation of Colorado – This Is What STEM Looks Like!. However, fewer than 18% of them earn degrees in computer science.

Across the nation, the demand for STEM professionals is growing, and with that demand comes higher salaries. Women who work in the STEM field earn 33% more than other female professionals. Nevertheless, the group only accounts for 29% of the entire STEM talent pool.

To prepare young women for the STEM workforce it’s necessary to provide them with opportunities to master their talent. Parents and educators must give them a chance to learn by observing STEM role models and mentors. Also, academics and caregivers must give young women the chance to receive recognition as innovators in their communities.

By taking a holistic approach to nurturing their growth, parents and teachers can help young girls overcome biases and misinformation that stand in the way of them engaging in what may become the career of their dreams. Resultantly, community organisations, educators and parents must take steps to ensure that girls are presented with myriad opportunities to practice science, technology, engineering and mathematical problem-solving.

Gender equality starts at the hiring stage

On the career front, STEM professionals are the most sought-after specialised talent in the employment market. Organisations work hard to attract these professionals, but they often fall short in achieving gender equality. Fortunately, a growing number of decision-makers recognise the importance of diversity, inclusion and parity.

Still, it’s challenging to build a workforce and a sincere corporate culture of diversity and inclusion. As a result, with only 18% of women graduating from computer science training, the percentage of women in STEM diminishes as seniority rises.

To combat this circumstance, organisational leaders must make a public and long-term investment in promoting gender diversity and inclusion in the STEM field. Simultaneously, human resources executives must work to eliminate conscious and unconscious bias during the hiring process. This is a challenge, as implicit bias is also buried deep in job descriptions, interview questions and interviewer opinions.

Nearly any organisation needs a pipeline of strong STEM talent to promote sustainable and prosperous operations. In time, those that fail to do so will cease to exist. By supporting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, you can build a healthy recruiting funnel that will help your organisation reach its objectives now and in the future.