Data gathered by Project Include in 2018, indicates that men still outnumber women in a majority of tech companies, particularly in leadership and management roles, by as much as 70%. Data from Statistics Canada indicates that women only accounted for 39% of university graduates aged 25 to 34 with a STEM degree in 2011. Although the call to include women and girls in STEM has been heard for many years now, more steps are clearly needed to make a significant difference.

Below, we’ve curated a primer of our best research and insights on this subject.

The acronym, STEM, refers to “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” Since the 1990s in particular, universities, international organizations, and governments have been concerned by the gender disparity in STEM roles globally.

There are four primary reasons why growing the number of women in STEM is important: 1) scientific research and advanced technologies will be more accurate and fair (e.g., current facial recognition technologies do a poor job of recognizing the faces of people of certain ethnicities, such as black women); 2) scientific research and conversations need a range of unique perspectives to be effective (e.g., debates regarding the ethics and social impacts of artificial intelligence); 3) there is a labour shortage in STEM, specifically in computer science and data science; and 4) because these occupations pay higher wages on average, involving more women in STEM careers could also help close the gender wage gap.

While most people agree that it would be desirable to attract and retain more women into STEM careers, there is less agreement about why more women are not in STEM and how to solve for potential barriers. For example, many organizations argue, “It’s not us, it’s the pipeline.” However, research shows that there are other, more significant, factors at play. In particular, workplace socialization in many of these fields perpetuate sex-segregation and either prevent these organizations from attracting women job candidates or lead the women they do hire to exit due to subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination and bias.

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A woman scientist in a lab

Closing the gender gap in STEM

From education to workplace hiring and retention, the barriers that prevent women from successful careers in STEM are well-documented. For example, only 39% of STEM university graduates in Canada are women, and unfortunately, those graduates still struggle to find work in the field. In fact, women with STEM degrees are more likely to be unemployed and have lower median salaries than men with STEM degrees.  In order to address these barriers and promote diversity in STEM, the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) hosted the event, “Women in STEM: A Panel Discussion,” in March 2018.

The panelists outlined four ways to help close the gender gap in STEM:
  1. Create more innovative, inclusive messaging
  2. Place a higher value on “soft” skills
  3. Actively cultivate a more inclusive workplace culture
  4. Encourage allyship in leadership and on boards
Read the full lessons from practice
Women in STEM: A panel discussion

In this video, Founder and CEO of Dot Health, Huda Idrees explains how toxic workplace cultures are discouraging women from pursuing careers in STEM fields, and why there is power in numbers.

To see more videos and insights from this panel, view the full event summary here. 

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Male and female gender icons