The STEM Gender Gap

By Jennifer Yu Cheng

With the rise of automation, AI and robotics, workers versed in the power and versatility of technology are in ever higher demand. Those who have studied science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will number among the leaders and decision makers who help transform how people live and work, and how industries and sectors perform, now and in the future.

While the number of women in STEM has grown over the past decades, women are still underrepresented in STEM fields. A gender gap exists at all stages of the STEM career pipeline – from interest and intent, to majoring in a STEM subject in college to having a career in a STEM field. UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) estimates that women make up 28%[1] UNGEI Report of scientific researchers worldwide, 23.4 % [2] UNESCO Women in Science of those in East Asia and Pacific, and 18.5%[3] UNESCO Women in Science of those in South and West Asia.

It is clear that women worldwide represent a major untapped resource of STEM talent. At JYCGIF, we know that building a STEM talent pipeline of teenage girls will change the face of technology, introduce more diverse sets of skills and ideas and help bridge the gender leadership gap as a whole. 

STEM education is key to increasing women’s representation in technology. However, biases, stereotypes and cultural beliefs have been found to discourage girls as young as 11 from studying and excelling in STEM subjects, according to a Microsoft 2016 study [4] Microsoft. By the time they reach college, young women are already significantly underrepresented in STEM majors. Only 21% of engineering majors and just 19% of computer and information science majors are women in the U.S., finds the National Science Board [5] NSF. Across Asia, the situation is worse, with just 1 in 6 women majoring in STEM subjects, according to an International Labour Organization (ILO) [6] ILO 2016 survey.

Women’s representation in science and engineering declines at the graduate level and yet again in the transition to the workplace, with women comprising 26% of data and artificial intelligence, 15% of engineering and 12% of Cloud Computing employees, according to a McKinsey report [7] Future Women at Work.

At JYCGIF, we believe that change starts early. By exposing teenage girls to women trailblazers whose STEM training helped them succeed in a diverse range of careers, we hope to empower teen girls to think like innovators and solve problems like scientists and engineers – to buoy their interest in studying STEM-related subjects with the ultimate goal of increasing women’s leadership representation across all sectors and industries in our increasingly tech-driven world.

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