Recent studies debase this traditional belief by concluding that females tended to stray from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields even when they had high mathematical skills because they are often skilled in verbal areas as well, leading them to consider more diverse career options. Done at the University of Pittsburg and the University of Michigan, the study found that “a pre-existing pool of individuals with both high math and high verbal abilities” tended to consider a wider variety of careers and that female students constituted a higher proportion of these individuals. As a result, while male students simply dove into STEM fields if they happened to be skilled in the sciences, female students who excelled in both areas considered careers other than STEM fields, leading to one less input source of females in STEM workplaces.
This research completely contradicts the traditional assumption of women’s inferiority in math and science and paints a positive outlook for many females. Although I do not mean to say that women are superior to men, I believe it is still necessary to increase awareness on this issue for two main reasons. The first is that I do not think any preexisting prejudice should stall an individual from testing and developing one’s potential. The second reason is that encouraging female students to engage in STEM careers and increasing the female population in these fields will help ensure that women in those fields will be treated equally as men. Incidentally, fostering future female role models in these workplaces will also encourage younger female students to puruse STEM careers.
For these reasons, it is crucial for them to be aware of the scope of their capabilities and not feel intimidated by the pre-existing prejudice. Incentives in forms of scholarships or contests to lure female students to STEM workplaces can also encourage them to test their potentials. As for female employees in STEM areas, foundations for women should hold campaigns to increase their self-esteem and mastery in the work places.
Until women are raised to equal standards and treatment as men in the STEM fields through increased awareness of their capabilities, more women may face unfair treatment and discrimination and more students may underestimate their potentials. However, any substantial change that seeks to change society from its roots is expected to take a long time. A rapid change would actually be more dangerous and ineffective; only a slow and subtle change would give time for any minor repercussions to break out and be solved along the way, and eventually bring all of society to a mutually accepted agreement.
Women have come a long way to find a place in many occupations today that have traditionally been considered for only men, but as with any endeavors for perfection, there is always one more step to be taken to reach the zenith. The same step now awaits not only those in the STEM fields, but also all of society. Increasing awareness of females’ STEM capabilities will slowly but surely raise female STEM professionals to the same level of respect, renown, and treatment as male professionals and bring society one step closer to perfect equality for all.