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domingo, 8 de febrero de 2015

SURPRISE ! No change in the gender gap for science careers (2004-2014)

I received an email from my advisor today sharing a link and saying we had some sad statistics to cite in future papers.  The study was was done by the National Student Clearinghouse Research center and it is called: Science & Engineering Degree Attainment: 2004-2014
The tagline for the study was: "From 2004 to 2014, science and engineering degrees increased in prevalence for both genders. The trend was driven by growth in the so-called hard sciences."
However by looking at the results you can get to a really sad picture of what it means to be a woman in STEM careers.

Let´s look at the big picture first
Source: The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

This picture shows that the gender distribution remained the same from 2004-2014. Many people would look at this graph and say we have reached equality in higher ed. It´s not 50-50 but definetly one could not say women are unrepresented at the doctoral level.

However, as the study says the picture changes a lot when you look at the specific disciplines

Source: The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

There is a significant drop at the bachelor level in Computer Science, for example. Again remember this data comprises 10 years !! Either we have not accomplished anything for 10 years or we have made it worse !!

                                           Source: The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

This is exactly the kind of graph that people against doing something about the gender gap in STEM careers loves to cite. "Well women are not underrepresented in the social sciences nor biology. Is because women like animals and nurturing stuff." I have seen this argument cited on papers many many times. Specially on papers studying career interest at the middle school level. However as someone part of STEM desertion statistic I can say I am not doing research on learning sciences because I couldn´t help my biological predisposition to do nurturing stuff. I am doing this because I lived first hand the kind of obstacles women and girls live everyday when trying to pursue STEM careers of any type. I wanted to do something about it and here I am.

I am part of those numbers and I know is beyond women been more naturally nurturing. Is because the gender gap at elementary school just keeps getting bigger and bigger because at every step girls and women don't have enough support to keep going.  A simple but strong example is the #likeagirl ad in the Super Bowl.

This study shows us something beyond a gender gap. This is more than a sad/impressive statistic of how number are dropping or not even moving. Anybody looking at the numbers knows this means so much for multiple decades of research and intervention programs. But most importantly !! WE HAVE TO TRY DIFFERENT THINGS! WE HAVE TO START LOOKING FOR ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEM! Because it exists! But whatever we have been doing is not working.

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