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The Impact of the Gender Stereotype of STEM

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

By Yasmin Silva Nilsson

December 10, 2022

UPDATED 12:00 PM EST


Gender biases have always been, and are everywhere. In STEM, it’s no different, and it is straight-up simple: the prevalence of stereotypes makes the retention of women and girl talent in tech careers harder to achieve — if you are a girl and received a chemistry kit instead of a doll as a birthday gift when you were a kid, you are a one in a million.


Ever since a young age such patterns accompany us in toys, colors and, embracing all factors, culture itself. As people perpetuate it in gift giving and other everyday behaviours, we grow up thinking about a certain natural order of things as dolls, princesses, and femininity make us more fragile and emotional to deal with the world, leaving the rough and rational for men. In the same logic, these mainstream thoughts keep themselves in our heads through the years in different formats. Maths, informatics, sciences, and technology are more rational than emotional, and thus are not suitable for our natural functions, and so on.


Furthermore, research and statistics make this idea even more realistic. In the US, while men make up a bit more than half of the workforce (52%), they comprise nearly 75% of all STEM workers. This sets up academia and workplace environments with a main style of communication and functioning suited for a single group of people - and that renders another productive conversation of underrepresented minorities.


We need to engage women in how to communicate in STEM environments and diversify fields in the long-run. Small changes from providing mentoring to high school students and showing research from an early age will expose them earlier to such fields, as current generations also engage in debates in which they realize the dominance of masculinity and what can be done about it.


The impacts of gender stereotypes in STEM comprise effects in communication, in representativeness, and in balance. Collective and practical efforts can slowly keep making science, engineering, and technology even more accessible - and they are far from being restricted to youth protagonism.



References

[1] https://thecyberwire.com/stories/a92e91a6cc1d4df8af466507b41a6ed0/how-to-grow-interest-in-stem-and-create-women-and-minority-leaders

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feduc.2019.00060/full

[2] McKinnon, M., O’Connell, C. Perceptions of stereotypes applied to women who publicly communicate their STEM work. Humanit Soc Sci Commun 7, 160 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-020-00654-0


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