Are Schools at Fault for the Lack of Girls in STEM?

Emma Duffy, Staff Writer

There is an explicit problem in science and mathematics fields.  It is common knowledge that there are less women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers than men.  Only a quarter of STEM jobs are held by women despite equal performance levels. Why is this so? Although there are many different possible explanations to this, it seems to be very plausible that the education system is at fault.  

Textbooks and teachers.  Imagine yourself opening up a science textbook and looking through the pictures of scientists, what do they look like?  A study was done by Carly Berwick that asked children to draw a scientist, and girls were twice as likely to draw a male, while the boys pretty much drew all men.  It is likely that this is because of the visuals they are shown when talking of scientists. Something as trivial as this can be at fault for discouraging females to enter the field of STEM.  Even if it is unintentional, teachers can also be to blame for the limited amount of women in STEM. In most schools, although not specifically Farmingdale High School, the majority of science and math teachers are male.  These teachers, male or female, subconsciously host biases in themselves, making it harder for girls to learn these subjects in a positive environment. This is not even simply at the high school level; in an interview, a female engineering major at The University of Alabama said that their male teacher, “only helps the girls.”  To be clear, this is not help that they asked for; he assumes that they will not understand the concepts, even if their grades are equal to or even higher than the male grades.  

It is obvious that it is a complex issue that may involve more factors than those inside the school, including the misogyny woven into our society’s attitudes toward women.  However, considering the likelihood that schools have an impact on this issue, it is their responsibility to address the problem. Such solutions to the problem could be finding more inclusive textbooks to distribute to kids, and make teachers take a seminar on the topic. These changes may seem small and ineffective, but it is better than doing nothing at all. Without change, we will be allowing a gender to dominate a field under the false pretenses of being more intelligent in those subjects, when it is simply the system at fault.  

* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license