Each February, the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Women and Girls in Science ahead of International Women's Day in March. Every year there are questions not only about why it is important to have more female scientists but also about how we can encourage girls to take up career paths in science.
Leading by example is a great way to help make this happen, and on International Day of Women and Girls in Science, role models can make a huge difference. Seeing someone who looks like you can be a powerful influence for people as they decide what career they would like to pursue. Hearing female scientists talk about what inspired them to become a scientist on International Day of Women and Girls in Science — and every day for that matter — can be a real motivator for women and girls considering careers in the sciences.
Diversity in STEM Matters
Why devote an entire day each year to raising the profile of women in science? In addition to supporting equality in our society, there's evidence to show that increasing diversity can yield other benefits as well. Elsevier Connects notes that having more women in STEM can increase research accuracy through gender inclusivity during studies, offer unique perspectives from the non-male gaze, and drive tech and healthcare innovation. UNESCO notes that despite a skills shortage in most tech fields, women are still not entering in large enough numbers to meet the estimated rates required to drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Visibility and Role Models
One of the reasons for the disparity could be that girls are not seeing enough women as role models in science. This is changing though. The 1966 Draw A Scientist project shows that as women grow more visible in STEM, more school students shift their thinking around what a scientist looks like, which might otherwise be influenced by gendered stereotypes. According to The Atlantic, when the project first began, fewer than 28 out of 5,000 drawings of scientists showed women. Now, more than 28% of school children draw a woman.
As an article in Frontiers in Education points out, seeing certain high school subjects as masculine, such as mathematics and physics, can deter girls from enrolling in these areas in college. It's therefore important to highlight the stories and accomplishments of women working in these fields to help more young women picture themselves in successful careers in science.