Women in STEM: How to Inspire a Generation
The 11th February 2022 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This is a day for celebrating women in science and STEM subjects. So, what is STEM? Why do we need to celebrate women in STEM? And, most of all, how can we support and inspire young women who want to get into the field of STEM?
What is STEM?
STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. These are all fundamental subjects in innovating new ideas and can be crucial when coming up with new medicines, space exploration and new technologies. These are all important as they can aid us, as a human race, in the future. However, women continue to be disproportioned in STEM as only one in five professionals (22%) is a woman and only 17 women have won a Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry or medicine, compared to 572 men.
Why should we care?
The United Nations (UN) have stated that “full and equal access to and participation in science, technology and innovation for women and girls of all ages is imperative for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”. This means that the disproportion of women in STEM is comparative to the everyday inequality women face. By tackling the inequality of women in STEM, we are helping spread the awareness that the inequality of women is not okay. We need to start to empower women and help them decide that they can go for the jobs that are typically a ‘male’ role, and that they can be good at it, too.
By specifically targeting STEM, we are not only helping empower women in the field, we are creating new sciences, technologies, engineering and maths that are by women, for women. This video by the UN explains why we need women in STEM, but it also mentions that women need STEM that is tailored to them, and the only way that can be achieved is if women are the ones designing it. For example, a woman (Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner) revolutionised the menstrual pad by creating a belt for sanitary napkins in 1957. The belt was produced as women were using sanitary napkins, rather than the modern-day pad, and needed something to keep it in place. The inconvenience of not having the belt is something that would only be picked up by someone who gets a period each month, giving a clear example that STEM needs to be diverse in order to produce diverse solutions.
How can we help?
The past couple of years of the pandemic has taken a huge toll on women and girls in STEM. As girls are out of the classroom, there is no one there to help inspire the future generation. Therefore, it has never been more crucial than to act now.
In another video by the UN, Mouminatou Barry, a software engineer and cognitive educator from Harlem, New York, speaks about her experience in STEM. As an educator, she inspires women by stating that “Even if you’re not the first person to do it [study STEM], you’re leaving a blueprint to add onto it”, expressing that by participating in STEM yourself, you are inspiring the next generation of women. She also expresses that girls should be taught to be loud and express their love for STEM. By being loud, it compels society to listen to women in STEM, which will create an acceptance of the new norm. Simply put, to inspire the current, and future, generations of women in STEM, you need to be loud and proud about it. Inspiring one girl can lead to another, and another, and so on. It is not about teaching girls in a different way, but simply by being proud to encourage them.
For more information about women in STEM, as well as information about STEM courses your local North Yorkshire institutions, visit our Instagram here. You can also check out our blog where we interview Phoebe, a Scientist at the University of Nottingham, about a week in her life here.
UN Website - nternational Day of Women and Girls in Science
YouTube Video of Women on the Cutting Edge of Scientific Breakthroughs (Mouminatou Barry)
UN Women – News of Women and Girls in Science
Impact on Women in STEM from Covid-19
Women who helped COVID-19
Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
YouTube Video: Why Support Women and Girls in Science and Technology?
INTERVIEW: UN information technology chief believes all girls should aspire to be ‘geeks’
In Focus: International Day of Women and Girls in Science