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Why We Need More Women In STEM

As Beyonce says, “Who run the world? Girls.”

With the uprise of women’s movements, such as the women’s march, #metoo and lifting the ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia— things are changing. Fast. I’m honored to be a part of the generation that gets to contribute and watch these powerful changes unfold.

Recently, I had the opportunity to volunteer with some elementary schoolers through a club called Kids Are Scientists Too started by some wonderful ladies here at Michigan State University. As I was working with these incredibly intelligent kids, I had a thought about women in STEM. Why are girls more likely to shy away from STEM fields than boys? Why haven’t we encouraged girls AND boys to pursue their dreams and go after what they really want to do? This thought has arisen across the country and across the globe, and things are slowly starting to pick up. We’re encouraging girls to be doctors and engineers and researchers, which is great— but women are still very much underrepresented in STEM compared to their male counterparts. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), female scientists and engineers are concentrated in the social sciences, making up 62% of the workforce and 48% of the workforce in biological, agricultural and environmental life sciences. But only 25% of workers in computer and mathematical sciences are women. For engineering, it’s even worse, at 15%. 

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) brings up a good point about a growth mindset that can really benefit girls (and boys!). We should be encouraging girls by not necessarily telling them that they’re smart, but rather that they can figure out anything and do anything by putting their mind to it. Telling kids that they’re smart at a young age is not always a bad thing, but it can definitely affect the way they approach things in the future by presenting intelligence as static. When kids start to believe that they can figure things out on their own, this opens up a wide avenue for them to develop their problem-solving skills, according to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck. Having to work hard doesn’t mean that they’re not smart, and unfortunately, many kids in “gifted” elementary programs tend to grow up thinking this.

Take it from me, for example. I was in one of those gifted programs as an elementary schooler. I remember feeling inadequate when I couldn’t figure out a problem because I felt like I wasn’t smart enough compared to the rest of the kids in my class, especially the boys, who had been encouraged to lead and show the rest of us that they could solve it. It didn’t hit me until high school when I realized the importance of a growth mindset. If everyone else could grow and change and find new ways to do things, why couldn’t I? I wish I had known this growing up because I’m sure that I’d think about things much differently. Nonetheless, it’s important that we teach girls to believe in themselves so that they don’t feel inadequate and that they feel like they can take on the world— because they can.

Girls have so many amazing traits that qualify us to do just as well as our male counterparts. In a male-dominated society, we must stand up and fight for what we believe in. We happen to be doing a great job, but let’s see more women computer scientists and more women engineers. Let’s follow the footsteps of the likes of Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Jane Goodall, Kalpana Chawla. We are strong and intelligent and imaginative— and we have every right to be at the top in the STEM field.

 

Ananya is the President of Her Campus at Michigan State. She is majoring in Human Biology and minoring in Health Promotion, and post-graduation, she will be attending medical school! If she's not studying, you can find her watching TikToks or Grey's Anatomy!
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