Women have made remarkable strides in the fight for equality, but continue to be overwhelmingly outnumbered by men in science, technology, engineering and math career fields.
Women make up 48% of the total workforce in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, yet lag behind in STEM-field jobs.
For example, according to the National Girl Collaborative Project, females make up 11.1 percent of physicists and astronomers, 7.9 percent of mechanical engineers and 10.7 percent of computer hardware or electrical engineers.
Laura Rodriguez Amaya, assistant site director of the LBJ Institute for STEM Education, said having women in STEM is important for society.
“When women are in STEM, it brings a new perspective, which is always good to have,” Rodriguez said. “Research shows when you have a group that includes women, it affects the productivity and the group tends to be more successful.”
Owusu Ansah Boakye, doctoral research assistant at the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research, said the lack of women in STEM comes from the early influences of double colonization.
“Women are not getting the same education as men in a post-colonized country because they face double colonization,” Boakye said. “Women have to face western ideas from colonization and many times they also have to face colonization by their own men, who have suppressed women in their own culture.”
Boakye said one of the factors that came out of double colonization is the idea women must become mothers and stay at home.
“A woman is usually first seen as a mother, a wife, a caretaker, and lastly seen by her occupation,” Boakye said. “This makes it difficult for women because they have many roles that each require a lot of time and STEM careers and degrees require a lot of time as well.”
Rodriguez said gender roles at an early age may influence the number of women in STEM today.
“We give boys Legos, and cars and things that they can work with and maneuver and explore,” Rodriguez said. “With girls, we tend to look at dolls and things that are more aligned to our concept of what girls need to be doing or what they should do later in life.”
Rodriguez said the lack of representation of women in STEM creates a lack of mentors for new women in the field.
“In a research I have done with the graduate students we looked at middle school girls here and in Ghana and the girls told us that they did not have role models in STEM,” Rodriguez said. “The girls had nobody that they could follow and talk to.”
Dr. Kristina Collins, assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, said she has seen a growing number of females enter STEM fields at Texas State.
“The percent of women that are graduating with a physics degree grown over the past year,” Collins said. “And it has not only grown over the past year, but we have seen it continually grow over the past several years.”
Gisell Salinas, applied mathematics sophomore, is inspired to pursue her career even more because she knows women are underrepresented.
“I believe that if you are passionate about something you shouldn’t let anything hold you back, and women in this field should feel inspired to achieve their career goals even more in light of the inequality,” Salinas said. “In biology, we now have almost half of the field that is women, and that’s a great step that shows we are working on this issue.”