Women are underrepresented in STEM fields. What can we do about it? This article by the American Association of University Women suggests encouraging women to take STEM classes in school and empowering the women that choose to pursue STEM interests is the answer to the shortage of women in STEM. I decided to look at data from my school to better understand what is being done to encourage women to pursue STEM.
In the graph above, you can see that over time, male students (represented by the blue bars) take more rigorous courses on average than female students (represented by the red bars). The difference seems small, but increases over time which can make a larger impact on students in college and ultimately in the workforce.
The graph is a depiction of the number of students enrolled in advanced science courses over time. The blue line represents male students and the red line represents female students. In 2014, only 29 women were enrolled in an advanced science course compared to 62 male students. That means that there was less than 1 female student to every 2 male students. In 2016, there were more female students than male students enrolled in advanced science classes and in 2018, the ratio is practically 1:1.
Although currently, the number of female and male students enrolled in advanced science classes is close to equal, the gender makeup of the students enrolled in different kinds of advanced classes greatly varies as shown in the graph. Male students are represented by the blue bars and female students are represented by the red bars. In 2019, there are significantly more women enrolled in advanced biology and significantly more male students enrolled in physics and engineering classes. There is statistically significant evidence that the advanced science course chosen is dependent on gender identity.
Note: Engineering classes are not counted as advanced science courses in the second graph.
The graphs above illustrate the number of male and female students enrolled in the different kinds of advanced science courses (biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering) over the course of the last five years. It’s interesting that female participation in biology and chemistry has increased, while female participation in physics and engineering has dropped recently.
Although this data is focused on the population of one school’s science department, the same phenomenon is happening across the globe. It’s important that we encourage and support women in STEM. The code used to create the graphs shown above is linked below. It’s interactive and I encourage you to explore by clicking the play button.