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Author Topic: Women in IT (STEM) [#WomenInSTEM]  (Read 5795 times)

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Offline kat

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Women in IT (STEM) [#WomenInSTEM]
« on: June 18, 2014, 11:58:09 PM »
How is it possible there are now fewer girls interested in STEM studies (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medical), and women employed or occupied in STEM fields, than ten or twenty years ago despite the UK Governments persistent intercession over that same time-frame through various educational programs and employment initiatives specifically designed to get girls in Schools studying STEM, and women in the workplace into STEM occupations[1].

This decline is partially acknowledged in a recent report from e-skills UK, "The Women in IT Scorecard", which presents stats and data to support the central premise that there are indeed lower numbers of girls studying STEM subjects, and women employed in STEM occupations generally, approximately one woman for every six men according to the report.

Whilst there are no arguments against the data at face value, the broader supposition and meaning somewhat misrepresents the problem because it presents the disparity between female and male students and employees in STEM, by implication rather than outright statement, as some sort of willful 'oppression'; that girls are being held back in School, or underemployed and underpaid in the work force through some unspoken patriarchal sentiment rather than perhaps their own long-standing internalised prejudices about "science geeks" and "tech nerds"[3]. In other words, girls in school and women in the work place, the numbers apparently indirectly imply, are being intentionally discouraged (despite all Government, NGO and non-profit efforts and programs, past and present for the very opposite); their being better, and "out-performing their males counterparts" when they are in STEM, is "exhibit 'A' your Honor".

The answer the report concludes is increased "intervention" from Government in addition to what is currently, and has been done, this last few decades. In other words, short of forcing, paying or otherwise rewarding, girls to study STEM or seek employment in STEM fields, just how does one go about encouraging someone to do something they may not have an inclination to do, irrespective of gender. Is it right (as in proper) to confer girls in school, and women in the workforce, with 'positive' inequality, i.e. promoting their advancement over that of male counterparts for the sake of numbers and statistics whilst ignoring inverse imbalances in fields traditionally held by women. Wouldn't it be better to simply encourage everyone to pursue STEM (or indeed whatever subject or area of interest takes their fancy) as is their wants and desires, and for employers to hire based on ability, skill and experience as they should already have been doing for the past 50+ years (notwithstanding laws against their not doing so).

But... for all this talk of even more Government involvement, wouldn't it be easier to simply ask girls themselves why they apparently don't want to study STEM subjects or pursue STEM careers[2] rather that using statistics and charts to present weighted arguments that don't solve the problem, which might in fact fuel further division, driving the "gender" wedge deeper, fomenting what might otherwise be wholly unfounded resentments all round.



[hat-tip to Develop]


Footnotes:
[1] - Women and the Economy, (a UK) Government Action Plan - Educational Choices and Careers: "Since 2010, Government has:
• Provided more good school places by radically reforming our education system and clamping down on failing schools, so that every child gets the education they deserve.
• Set up two dozen new University Technical Colleges.
• Launched the new National Careers Service which encourages girls and young women to challenge stereotypes and encourage them to choose from the broadest possible career options.
• Delivered over 1 million apprenticeship starts, of which more than half have been women.
• Worked with schools to encourage take-up of initiatives such as “Enterprise Village” and “Inspiring the Future”, which enabled schools to access at least 2,500 enterprise champions and role models.
• Funded a Diversity Programme, led by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, to understand and address issues of diversity in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths workforce. This looks at issues such as recruitment, retention and access to work experience
". [pg. 6]

- Our plan for growth: science and innovation (2014)
- - §2 "We will provide dedicated support for women to return to jobs in industry following career breaks".
- - 2.1 "We need to ensure that we make the best of all our talents – dismantling the sometimes invisible barriers faced by women and other underrepresented groups".
- - 2.10 "...by helping employers recruit and retain talent, particularly women. More than 200 organisations have pledged to take action to increase the representation of women in the engineering and technology sectors".
- - 2.41 "We will provide support for a dedicated platform to match STEM trained women graduates to return to jobs in industry following career breaks and to provide them with advice and information about the support on offer to them.".

[2] - House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Women in scientific careers, Sixth Report of Session 2013 – 14 "The under-representation of women in science has been explored in-depth and there are numerous organisations and initiatives striving to improve gender diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) study and careers. However, despite the attention that the topic has received, it has been estimated that “it will take 50 or 80 years before we get gender equality if we just keep doing the same thing, hoping that the pipeline will produce more women” scientists". [pg. 7] (Ed. an intentional call for positive discrimination).

- Women and the Economy, (a UK) Government Action Plan - Career Progression, Returning to Work and Childcare: "Women face a significant set of challenges as they seek to get on in the second stage of their careers. The issues here are well known and centre on the challenges for women of taking career breaks to have children, getting back into the workplace after a break, and balancing advancing their careers with childcare responsibilities" [pg. 9].

- Why Are We Still Worried about Women in Science? (relative to USA workforce): "...statistical research consistently suggest that two primary factors stand out among the multiple forces pushing women to leave the STEM workforce: the need to balance career and family and a lack of professional networks." ["Barriers", para. 2]

- e-skill uk (2014) Women in IT Scorecard: 3.2.3 Hours of work "When asked why they had taken up part-time, as opposed to full-time positions, virtually all female IT specialist employees stated that it was because they did not want a full-time post – a higher percentage than for female employees working part-time as a whole (73%). By contrast, only one in six (60%) male employees working part-time as IT specialists were doing so as they were unable to find full-time work and less than one in four (37%) males working part-time in total (employees)". [pg. 9]

[3] Getting Girls to Study STEM: It's About More Than Just Making Science ‘Cool’: "Research shows that teenage girls think that disciplines involving programming and hardware like CS and EE are boring, that they won’t do well in these courses, and the majors are mostly geeky guys with no social life. As a society we encourage our young people to study what they love and what they are good at, so it’s not surprising that girls are not interested in enrolling in these majors. Moreover, in many cases when a female student does enroll in an intro course, she withdraws because she feels underprepared in comparison to some of the students (mostly geeky guys) who seem to know all kinds of arcane info about the subject."


[last updated for #WomenInSTEM day Feb 2016]

 

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