I think there is a shortage of women in STEM professions, resulting from not enough emphasis in early education, insufficient support during difficult years, and the stereotyping of women in STEM.
I feel math and science should be fun to learn in elementary school. Hands-on projects should be leveraged to a greater degree, emphasizing relevance. Parents need to be supportive and encouraging in the early years of development to build a strong foundation. My dad encouraged me to do well in math and it paid off. I think if grades and test scores are low in math and science, parents should help or acquire tutoring in the spirit of encouragement, not punishment. Make it enjoyable to learn.
I remember how challenging adolescence was. Popularity and peer pressure are prominent at that time. For girls in particular, being the smartest student in math and science is not always considered “cool.” I feel it is critical for girls to get more encouragement at home and at school to develop their interest in STEM. Being polite should not be sacrificed at the expense of achievement. STEM professionals should be welcomed into the schools to talk about what they do, how rewarding their work is, and how teamwork plays a role in succeeding.
Mentors should be a requirement at the college level. When courses get dry and difficult, it is too easy to change majors and pursue a different path. A mentor can listen to the student’s thinking and provide guidance and encouragement to “stick with it.” This could result in having more women in STEM professions.
Early careers for some women include marriage and raising a family. Priorities shift and a woman’s career could be slowed down or put on hold. Women need to stay engaged and find support externally and from their employers. Today, the playing field is shifting to where more men are taking on the responsibility for home and family. This shift needs to be supported and recognized by society.
I know many women in STEM who are bright, talented, and glamorous. Their stories are remarkable. More stories need to be told. Television and movies can more prominently portray the exciting and rewarding careers women have in STEM professions. When there were popular doctor and lawyer shows on television, there were more students eager to pursue those fields. We need the same for STEM.