Although the overall amount of people attending college is increasing, women are nearly invisible in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, commonly referred to as STEM, majors with “only about 25 percent of STEM degree holders [being] women”. (Sheehy) This severe marginalization of women is caused by of the lack of role models, stereotypes, and misconceptions surrounding these majors.
One of the main causes of this lack of women is the lack of female role models. When people think of famous scientists Einstein, Newton, Darwin, and Bill Nye come to mind. All of which are men. With a little more thought, you might be able to scrounge up a couple of women such as Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel prize, Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, or Sally Ride, the first American woman astronaut, but they are not as well known. When young girls are not able to see women as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, etc. they are not able to imagine themselves in those positions. They also do not have anyone to look up to and relate to, and may become discouraged and not pursue those careers.
Another major reason young women may be discouraged are the stereotypes surrounding STEM careers. Such stereotypes include, but are not limited to: engineering is not for girls, technology is a man’s area, and my favorite, girls suck at math. These gross stereotypes of half the population are perpetuated by many institutions. In the summer of 2013, The Children’s Place marketed a t-shirt for girls. It was titled “my best subjects”, with shopping, music, and dancing selected. But not math because “well, nobody’s perfect”. (Bennett-Smith). The store, which sells clothing for children ages zero to 14, was forced to recall the shirt after parents began protesting. What this example shows us, is companies, and the people who make up those companies, still believe math is not for girls. They also know other people, who were expected to buy the item, believe this stereotype also. When young girls are exposed to these stereotypes, they start to believe them. They may think it is okay for them not to do well in their math and science classes because they are girls, even though they are fully capable of performing just as well as boys.
Another major stereotype supposedly causing women to steer clear of STEM majors is that women are simply not interested in those careers. Women are seen as the loving, nurturing types while men are more hands-on, doer types. What people do not realize is...