There has been a great deal of discussion in recent years about the need to increase the number of women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs. Why do so many different people believe that this is crucial? Here are five reasons why we need more women working in STEM fields.
1. A larger talent pool improves the quality of the STEM workforce.
In today’s competitive global economy, it’s vital that countries that want to stay at the forefront of innovation and development make the best possible use of their assets, including their people. Imagine you are assembling a baseball team. Would you want to choose from 10 potential players or 100 potential players? Obviously, the larger group would be preferable because it increases the odds of finding talented players and allows you to cultivate the best of the best. Encouraging women to participate in the STEM fields has a similar effect. By increasing the number of people working in these areas, you improve the overall quality of the STEM workforce.
2. Diversity brings new perspectives.
Great minds don’t always think alike, and that’s a good thing. Bringing together great minds with a broad range of experiences expands the pool of general knowledge by introducing new perspectives and encouraging more varied approaches. As National Geographic explains, changes in healthcare offer a clear example of the value of female involvement in scientific study. Traditionally, healthcare studies were conducted on males. Even the lab rates were males. Since women are not smaller versions of men, this put them at a significant disadvantage. Drug dosages and gender-specific symptoms of diseases were misunderstood or overlooked, and the results were sometimes fatal. The introduction of women into the ranks of medical researchers led to the realization that gender was a variable that should be studied in healthcare, an epiphany that has changed policies and saved lives.
3. More female involvement in STEM is good for the overall economy.
From an economic standpoint, the lack of women in STEM jobs costs taxpayers money, and not just in lost potential. According to the Association for Women in Science, a minimum investment of $1,000,000 is required to train scientists and engineers at the Ph.D. level; that outlay should be rewarded with productivity. More than 40 percent of the STEM degrees awarded in the last 40 years went to women, but women make up less than 30 percent of the fields’ workforce because the field fails to retain female employees. While women with STEM degrees often find positions in other fields, this failure means that taxpayers are not getting the best possible return on their investment in STEM education.
4. Increased female participation in STEM fields offers improved economic stability.
Studies conducted by corporate giants like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America have shown that companies with more female employees consistently outperform their competitors. That suggests that hiring women is simply good business. It also benefits more than the company doing the hiring; successful companies provide a robust tax base and economic stability. On a smaller scale, increasing female participation in STEM fields also benefits women and their families because these jobs tend to be higher paying and less subject to the gender wage gap that plagues so many industries.
5. Success stories provide inspiration for future generations.
We admire trailblazers because they make it easier for those who follow them to see the possibilities and embrace the opportunity to make their own contributions. Having more women working in STEM fields makes it easier for the next generation of girls to contemplate forging a STEM career. It also means that there will be more women available to serve as mentors to aspiring STEM professionals. Both of these factors increase the odds of success for women who want to enter a STEM field.
Many individuals and organizations are working to encourage young women to enter STEM fields. Understanding the value of female participation helps people to appreciate the need for this support.