Why Do So Few Women Work in STEM?

The demand for people who are educated and capable of working in STEM fields is growing. The need for talented employees knowledgeable in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics is clear. The industry figures indicate that in Canada during 2017, while the employment market grew 1.8% in totality, STEM jobs grew by almost 5%. This clearly shows the demand and need for trained people, especially women, in this fascinating field.

In this article, we discuss why too few women study STEM and work in this expanding field.

Job Growth Was Previously Unclear

Whilst it wasn't always clear that there was a place for women within STEM or that it was a growing opportunity for everyone, it certainly is now. There are so many fields to go into under this broad acronym that it is worth listing a few here to make things clearer.

Here are just a few of the possible professions under STEM:

  • Doctors and surgeons
  • Meteorologists
  • Software and hardware developers
  • Technicians
  • Nurses
  • Chemists
  • Engineers

As you can see, the professions listed are clearly in demand, and most are growing in this regard. Click this link from Wilfrid Laurier University to understand better which jobs are expanding and the ones that may interest you.

They May Never Have Considered a STEM Career Before

Many of the more technical roles as outlined in the previous section are not ones that women in the past have jumped at the chance to work in. Certainly, there have been inroads into working amongst technical staff, such as Social Media Managers with some degree of technical expertise, but the more demanding developer or computer engineering roles haven't been filled at the same pace.

It's true that this needs to change. Considering that women are commonly now graduating with degrees more often than men, they are more than capable! But we as women must believe in ourselves more when it comes to technical positions and not leave it to the boys. That's the bottom line.

Whilst working in positions like a Social Media Manager is a good thing, it doesn't require a Computer Science degree to do so because it's not very high-tech. Instead, it requires a familiarity with using social media deftly and the finer points of brand management to avoid snafus. However, for women who want to get into better-paid STEM positions, a related degree is really required to get a foot in the door.

Not Noticing the Demographical Trend

Not only is it true that STEM jobs are growing with many new job openings compared to other professions, but something else is happening too - a demographical shift.

When looking at the medical field, whether advanced fields like biomedical engineer or more traditional healthcare fields such as medical doctors and nursing staff, there's a problem with boomers. They're reaching an age where they need medical care to a greater degree, and more often too.

Unfortunately, too few people have been studying STEM in general - not just women. As a result, there's a shortage of people to work in these fields. It's most noticeable in healthcare with hospitals, especially smaller or regional ones, struggling to recruit the staff they need. This represents an opportunity for improved job security and rising wages now and in the future.

Too Few Role Models Available

There haven't been many role models for women to see in the STEM fields; there are not enough female doctors to inspire women to try for the same position through a course of study; too few female programmers, chemists, biochemists, or CEOs in a technical company to encourage women to go for it. As a result, in some countries, the number of women entering STEM has been declining, not increasing, which is very sad.

Thankfully, now we're beginning to see more women giving speeches at industry conferences and penning books. Because of this, interest in STEM among women is seeing a resurgence. In the push for higher remuneration, technical fields often pay some of the highest salaries, which has not gone unnoticed, and rightly so.

Missing That Retirement Represents New Opportunity

Many of the people who worked in computer engineering and other fields over the past 20-30 years are reaching their own retirement age. They're moving out of the STEM workforce and will eventually become one of the patients at a hospital in need of staff. It's a curious situation.

However, for anyone interested in a technical profession, they're finding that boomers' retirement means there are jobs to fill even if the field isn't growing directly. This continues to happen as a greater percentage of the boomer generation quit work. Also, early retirees (engineering is the top profession for people who have retired early due to the salary which often tops six-figures) is seeing the herd thin out too.

Fear of a Lack of Acceptance

It used to be the case that this was a valid cause for concern. Nevertheless, this is far less of a problem now for capable women who have a solid resume.

There are now plenty of employment laws to ensure a fairer working environment. Companies wish to have a balanced workforce with a good mix of women and men in all departments to avoid looking like they have a bias one way or the other. This is excellent news for anyone looking to get into more interesting technical fields that they feared were previously barred.

Not Being Optimistic That Things Will Change

It's unfortunate that there is still a bit of a stigma when it comes to STEM topics being male-oriented. This must stop. The best way to do so is to study for the field to become qualified to work within it. It won't change otherwise, because someone unqualified isn't appropriate to work in technical areas unless they can do the job. So, the more women who study for STEM, the greater the opportunity for professional growth in this area. Be optimistic!

While companies are eager to employ women in STEM positions, they need enough valid applicants to do so. Therefore, it's up to women to accept that challenge by studying to work in STEM first, and then there's a world of job openings available to them for some of the reasons outlined in this article. Fortunately, it's clearer than ever that the jobs are there for the taking, which should provide additional encouragement to try.

3 min read

Help! My Friend Is a No Show

Email armchairpsychologist@swaaymedia.com to get the advice you need!

Help! My Friend Is a No Show

Dear Armchair Psychologist,

I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.


Dear Sadsies,

I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.

I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!

- The Armchair Psychologist

Need more armchair psychologist in your life? Check out the last installment or emailarmchairpsychologist@swaaymedia.com to get some advice of your own!