Growth of Women in STEM Fields
Women in STEM
One of the under the radar trends in technology that has become more noticeable in recent years is women joining STEM and STEAM fields that traditionally have been dominated by men. Although a 2016 National Science Foundation report found that women make up half of the college-educated workforce in the U.S. but only 29 percent of the STEM workforce, that trend is changing (link). The chart below demonstrates just how impressive this growth has been as attitudes towards women in STEM and STEAM fields continue to change.
As you can see, in the past eight years women have been turning to STEM fields in greater numbers than ever before, as these professions offer tremendous career potential.
The growth is clear as more women pursue STEM education curriculum: between the 2008-2009 and 2015-2016 school years, the number of male students granted a STEM degree or certificate increased by 38 percent, while the number of female students who attained the exact same degree or certificate increased by 48 percent.
Additionally, this chart doesn’t even include women who are pursuing fields like web development and design on their own without holding a degree in the field.
STEM fields are powerful, because the skills required often can be attained outside of the traditional four-year college or university degree path. In fact, many skills can be attained using online resources or entrepreneur curriculum in school.
And it’s important to keep in mind that the chart only represents a portion of women who have entered the field in recent years. This growth is expected to endure in the coming years, especially as STEM fields continue to expand as key pillars of both the U.S. and global economies.
Young Women in STEM
At CTeLearning, we have seen an increase in the number of women who join and contribute richly to our team. About half of our team members are women, and they add a diversity of experience and skills that we otherwise would not have.
At the postsecondary level we have seen a sharp rise in the number of women who are taking part in our web development, web design, web technologies and mobile app development certification programs delivered through our adult education and university partners.
We are seeing an increase in young women enrolling in our courses at the secondary level, but not as rapidly as we have seen in post-secondary levels over the past three years, where we are seeing enrollments of roughly 50% women and 50% men.
These women go on to work for themselves or contribute to companies in STEM fields. And we make it a point to include material in all of our courses that features women STEM and STEAM experts, so that students can understand these fields are not only open to men to pursue.
Our numbers, certainly in the adult end of our business, show women who are taking charge of their careers and learning to move into STEM.
In the STEM world, many companies are embracing people who may not have taken a traditional career route. Companies like Google, Apple, and IBM are looking for people who show they have a passion for technology and the right attitude about working and learning.
“When you look at people who don’t go to school (university and degree) and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people,” said Google’s former SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock.
Advantages for Women in STEM Careers
Men and women both enjoy flexibility and freedom in their STEM and STEAM careers, as many fields offer the ability to work remotely or work flexible schedules. For many entering into STEM careers, especially those that work in and on the web, the ability to be their own boss and control their own destiny is attractive.
One of the reasons STEM fields have become so attractive to women is that they offer freelance and self-employment opportunities not available in many other fields. For example, someone who learns web design and development, whether on her own or through an industry certification or degree program, will be equipped to market herself and her portfolio to companies looking for skilled designers and developers.
In effect, freelancers are small businesses, which is significant considering small businesses account for 43% of all high tech employment and are the source of most job growth in the U.S. This can be a powerful incentive to pursue STEM fields, as freelancing and consulting can offer a great work-life balance that is difficult to find in other fields.
This growth isn’t slowing down anytime soon, as demands for talented STEM professionals will continue to increase. With a multitude of options for obtaining valuable STEM skills, the growth of women in STEM fields is likely to outpace the growth of men in the coming years.
Co-Authors: Dr. Mauricio Castillo / Steve Waddell