Anika Nayak is a Florida-based freelance journalist, where she writes about everything Gen Z – whether it is culture, health, or even politics. Her bylines have appeared in i-D, Teen Vogue, and Washington Post’s The Lily, among others. In this article, Anika features stories about some Gen Z STEM feminist leaders that are working to change the gender inequalities within STEM related careers. You can follow Anika on Twitter, where she frequently tweets about young people and social justice. The full article was originally published March 20, 2020 on Elite Daily.
It’s 2020, and women have the same opportunities as men. Well, in some fields. Despite the increasing prominence of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — collectively known as STEM fields — these industries have historically been male-dominated. But some young women are working to change that.
While female representation in STEM has increased in recent years — from 2008 to 2016, the number of STEM degrees awarded to women increased by 48% — as of 2020, women’s involvement in STEM still isn’t comparable to that of men. In the 2015-2016 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, only about one-third of bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields went to women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). They’re also underrepresented on the job: According to the National Science Board, as of 2017, the most recent year on record, women were more than half of the overall college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce. Research from organizations like the American Association of University Women (AAUW) suggests these disparities can be attributed to social and environmental barriers like gender bias, discrimination, and academic and workplace attitudes that discourage women from pursuing STEM jobs.
In addition to gender discrimination, there are also racial issues in STEM: Minority women tend to be underrepresented in STEM education and the workforce. In the 2017-2018 school year, women of color earned only a tiny portion of all STEM degrees, with Black women earning 2.6% of all degrees, Hispanic women 3.6%, and Asian women 3.9%, per NCES. As of 2015, more than 60% of women employed in science and engineering fields were white.
However, things are changing. Scientists, innovators, and researchers are realizing the importance of having a diverse STEM field, and young advocates are working to close the gender gap with educational initiatives and leadership.