Are Young Women Losing Interest In STEM Fields?

Source: Pexels

Feb. 26 2024, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

Share to XShare to FacebookShare via EmailShare to LinkedIn

The declining interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields among women and girls is an ongoing discussion, and researchers have had knowledge of the gender gap for generations. The gap continues to exist today, with a 2023 Gallup survey finding that Gen Z men are nearly 20 percent more interested in pursuing STEM careers than Gen Z women.

Why is the gender disparity in STEM interest and career choice so apparent? Studies suggest the lack of interest may not be the only problem.

As of 2021, women make up a third of the STEM workforce in the U.S., despite also making up just over half of the U.S.’s total population, according to the National Science Foundation. Of that population, white women make up a significant proportion. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black women only make up 2 percent of the STEM workforce, and the Student Research Foundation found that Hispanic women made up less than 2 percent.

///pexels august de richelieu  x
Source: Pexels
Article continues below advertisement

Challenges To Encouraging STEM Education

The 2023 Gallup poll also found that Gen Z women reported learning fewer STEM concepts than the Gen Z men surveyed. Environmental science was the only one of the seven concepts in the study that more women than men said they learned in school. More men than women agreed that their schools encouraged them to pursue STEM careers, offered STEM-related classes, and provided STEM-related extracurricular activities.

Impact Of Confidence And STEM Role Models

Research suggests that there’s a lack of confidence instilled in women, starting from childhood, to aspire to STEM careers. A 2022 study on the gender gap in STEM studies found that girls appeared to be less confident in their abilities to excel in STEM careers compared to boys, who demonstrated higher faith in their own skills. The lack of confidence is even more apparent for women of color.

The 2022 study also concluded that a lack of women role models in STEM could contribute to the gender gap in interest. The study asked both boys and girls to name role models of people in STEM and in both cases, the groups widely named men in STEM rather than women. Of the most-named people in STEM the students cited, none were women of color. 

Article continues below advertisement
///Encouraging Girls In STEM In Article Photo  Source Pexels x

SOURCE: Pexels

Representation In STEM Careers

Representation is a vital place to start to address the disparity between boys’ and girls’ interest in STEM. Judging by these studies, lack of interest is likely not the biggest problem. A lack of instilled confidence, access to learning STEM concepts, and role models play more significant roles. 

The lack of confidence is an overall challenging topic to address, and there’s a specific term for women’s lack of confidence in their STEM abilities: the confidence gap. According to a 2020 study, it has far-reaching implications that can prevent women from making higher salaries and reaching higher roles. 

Instilling confidence in young girls’ abilities is beneficial, but it’s also crucial to demonstrate her capabilities by letting girls see women in STEM who look like them. According to research by Pearson, representation led to higher levels of confidence and changed students’ perception of the STEM fields. It also increased the likelihood of the person who saw themselves represented staying in STEM. 

It’s crucial to uplift the voices of women in STEM to encourage young girls to see themselves in these fields, particularly in the cases of Black and Hispanic women. With young girls losing interest in STEM, now is the time to show them that they’re welcome and they belong. 

Ambition Delivered.

Our weekly email newsletter is packed with stories that inspire, empower, and inform, all written by women for women. Sign up today and start your week off right with the insights and inspiration you need to succeed.

Jacqueline Gualtieri Headshot 2023 – Jacqueline Gualtieri
By: Jacqueline Gualtieri

"Jacqueline Gualtieri is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in The Huffington Post, Insider, and The Slowdown. As a former social media consultant, her work often advocates for digital advancement in the workplace, as well as for the empowerment of women to advance their careers on their own terms. She's a firm believer in lifelong learning and is always looking to hone new skills. Following the pandemic, she started challenging herself to learn one new skill per year. She’s already picked up embroidery, cross-stitching, knitting, and crocheting, but next up for her is expanding her list of languages to help her in her travels. When she's not writing for Her Agenda or working with her marketing and PR clients, you can find her writing new books and poems, crocheting toys for her nieces and nephews, or hitting the road with her partner and dog to explore a new place. She loves to explore her own backyard, finding hidden gems along the California coast, but she’s always looking for travel recommendations. But her happy place is at home with a good book and her senior pup by her side. In addition to travel recommendations, she’s always looking for her new favorite novel."

Latest The Main Agenda News and Updates

    Link to InstagramLink to FacebookLink to XLinkedIn IconContact us by Email

    Opt-out of personalized ads

    Black OwnedFemale Founder