Tag: STEM

Congress Passes Bill To Recruit More Women Into STEM Careers

Update: We mistakenly reported that the pro-STEM bills signed by Trump were Executive Orders. In fact, they were Congressional bills, and this has now been corrected.

President Trump is infamous for his treatment of women, and we at IFLScience have made it no secret we find his administrations attitude towards science is one of near-total disdain. Thats why, when the Commander-in-Chief recently added his signature to two bills in the Oval Office bills designed to recruit more women into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs it came as quite a welcome surprise.

As per the first bill, HR 321, NASA must actively ramp up its attempts to recruit and encourage more young women into taking up STEM careers. NASA will also be required to report to Congressional committees with regards to how much progress it is making on this issue.

The second bill, HR 255, authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF), the source of nearly a quarter of all federally supported scientific research, to boost its recruitment efforts. Women graduating in STEM subjects will be aided in taking up STEM careers in the worlds of both academia and industry.

Although the fine details of the bills are somewhat lacking its not clear what encouraging means in practical terms its hard to disagree with the President signing off on these, which were given bipartisan support in Congress. However, things are not as benevolent as they seem.

During the signing ceremony at the Oval Office Trump said it was unfair that only 1 in 4 women with a degree in one of these fields ends up working in them.

This likely refers to the results of a US census back in 2012, which notes that just 25 percent of both men and women with a bachelor’s in a STEM subject find work in a STEM field, a problem linked to the lack of funding and career support for science in general. The figure for women alone was actually closer to 1 in 7 far worse than Trumps team have made out.

Just 1 in 7 women with STEM degrees go into STEM fields. US Census

This depressing statistic isnt just down to the well-documented recruiting bias against women in STEM fields it goes back to education, and how, from a very young age, most girls arent raised to think that they are just as able to become scientists as men are. Its not clear that the new Education Secretary, someone who has no experience working in schools whatsoever, has any plans to address this issue.

Mind you, its not ever been clear that Trump himself knows much about women in STEM. Back in 2016, when questioned on the subject, he dismissively said: there are a host of STEM programs already in existence.

And then, of course, theres the Trump administrations anti-science agenda. From a Cabinet stuffed with climate change deniers to enormous budget cuts to federal science research programs including a 24 percent cut to the beleaguered Environmental Protection Agencys (EPA) budget these Congressional bills have cropped up at a strange time in the American political discourse.

Theres something decidedly paradoxical about encouraging women to take up STEM careers when it looks like there wont be many left by the time they graduate. Science needs funding, plain and simple, but every action taken by the resurgent Republican Party in 2017 amounts to nothing less than trampling on so much of Americas scientific legacy.

With this in mind, its worth pointing out that as the pro-STEM bills were signed, Trump also added his signature to one of his own Executive Orders, one that aims to review the way public waterways are protected from pollution under the EPAs Clean Water Rule.

This act essentially ensures over 110 million Americans have safe drinking water, and its backed by hard-and-fast science. This order seeks to weaken it just so fossil fuel companies can get away with a little more fracking and a little less regulation.

So yes, the signing of the STEM bills are a good thing but the wider picture confirms that Trump is far more of a threat to science than he is a friend to it.

[H/T: Chicago Tribune]

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/president-trump-signs-executive-orders-to-help-women-take-up-stem-careers/

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Women In STEM Around The World: Where We’ve Improved, And Where We Can Do Better

On March 8, every year, its International Womens Day a celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women all over the world. As we often like to point out at IFLScience, particularly around this time of year, we should absolutely be applauding the mind-blowing work of women working in science, too.

Without these people from the great pioneers and pathfinders, to the masters and doctoral students toiling through their tough degrees the world would be a far worse place than it is today. Todays a good chance to acknowledge this, but its also a good opportunity to review the progress society has made in getting more women into science.

Although there are more women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) than ever before, problems still pervade. From the recruiting bias against women to the fact that many with STEM degrees never end up in a STEM occupation, theres a great deal more we can all do to help climb this unfortunate mountain.

Disequilibrium

Lets just have a quick look at the statistics for the US, the most powerful nation on Earth and certainly the richest. Although there are plenty of congressional representatives there keen on getting more women into STEM, the Land of the Free currently has a massive problem in this regard.

According to US government data from 2012, there were 41,640,670 adults aged between 25 and 64 with at least one bachelors degree, and 14,807,725 of them (about 36 percent) had STEM degrees. Thats not a bad proportion overall for those wanting to study or get into science.

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The state of women with STEM degrees in the US, as of 2012. US Census

However, just 1 in 4 men with STEM degrees go into STEM careers today. This is unfortunate enough, but 1 in 7 women fall for the same fate another clear example of there not being enough paths to a career in science for both men and women, and a striking showcase of how underrepresented women are in science.

The UK fares just as badly. As of 2015, women make up no more than 18 percent of the STEM workforce, up by just 0.2 points since 2012. Just 9 percent of the British workforce are female engineering workers, and only 6 percent of qualified engineers are women.

Diversity of women in STEM is also a massive problem. In the US, back in 2013, 70 percent of STEM job holders were white. Minority women held fewer than 1 in 10 jobs as employed scientists or engineers.

Yes, there arent many jobs in academia going at the moment. Funding in academia is a notoriously troublesome issue, and its set to fall quite dramatically in the US under the new Trump administration.

But this problem of underrepresentation has existed long before this was a factor. If you have so many women graduating with STEM degrees, you should have far more women in STEM jobs. So where are they all?

Climbing Mountains

Women face an uphill struggle in many respects compared to men. Just as an example, the gender pay gap wont close completely until the year 2186at the current rate, and there are plenty of men (and women) in power trying very hard to convince the world that women arent strong or smart enough to deserve equal pay.

Women face plenty of prejudices when it comes to science too. The seemingly endemic problem of harassment and sexism of women in the workplace also includes STEM jobs. There is a well-documented bias against hiring women over men across a wide range of careers, and STEM is no exception.

One study revealed that both male and female employers were twice as likely to hire men over women regardless of background. Another computer science-related study found that, when coding anonymously for review, women were often seen as better than their male counterparts. However, when the sex of the coders weremade public, men were suddenly seen as being more competent.

Even in STEM careers, men cite themselves and their own work way more than women do, and analyses suggest that this is because its socially acceptable for men to be ambitious, but women seen doing the same are considered to be threatening in some way. Go figure.

Women being recruited into STEM degrees is on the up, but there’s a long, long way to go yet. Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

Consequently, female first or co-authorship of academic papers has gone down. It increased from 27 to 37 percent from 1994 to 2014, but ever since, it has plateaued, and even begun to decline in many journals. The largest step-change occurs at the post-doc level, where plenty of men persevere but a huge number of women drop out.

We need to think about ways to dismantle the structural practices that prevent women from staying in science, Aimee Eckert, a doctoral student in cell biology at the University of Sussex, told IFLScience.

A friend of mine is a PhD student and a single mother. She’s brilliant and would make a great lab leader one day, Eckert said. But she will be penalized in academia for staying in one city or even in the UK because of the pressure to work in different environments to climb the career ladder.

Noting that there are too many qualified women getting neglected for talks, public seminars, and panel discussions, Eckert said that shed like to see more practices that don’t label women as the other in science, as opposed to men being the norm.

Even from a young age, girls are taught in many parts of the world that STEM jobs are boys jobs, not anyones. This is despite the fact that boys and girls perform equally well in STEM subjects in terms of standardized testing results, all other things considered equal.

This may be part of the reason why many of them decide not to study in a STEM field at all.

UK government data shows that back in 2013-2014, 52 percent of male undergraduates were on a STEM course at university, compared to just 40 percent of women. Just 20 percent of A-level (optional, advanced high school final exams) physics students are female, and this statistic has remained steady for the last quarter-century.

Computer science degrees, which are becoming increasingly important to the well-being of nations these days, are dominated by men. Just 18 percent of US computer science graduates are women.

In the US, a 2015 report shows that both men and women were slightly more likely to be taking STEM degrees than they were a decade ago. This sounds good, but theres a caveat: The share of STEM degrees has gone down for women over the last 10years as men are taking a bigger slice of the pie here. So as men rocket forwards in STEM, women are falling behind.

Remember that this is just a handful of wealthy nations were talking about here. In much of the developing world, women dont even have access to higher education. For the first time in history, just this year, there are as many girls as boys in primary education a great achievement, but one that highlights how far we have yet to come.

Lets All Look On The Bright Side

There are some positive signs of change afoot, however. It is true that there are more women in STEM than ever before, and they are dominating the fields of anthropology, archaeology, forensics, pharmacology, zoology, and psychology, to name but a few. In important, public ways, women in STEM occupations are being promoted a lot more than they used to.

One study revealed that the gender bias may be switching sides in some senses, with one study concluding that male and female employers are more likely to hire women for professorial roles in psychology, engineering, and biology than equally qualified male counterparts.

Obviously, people should be hired based on their expertise alone, but its demonstrably clear that theres an enormous problem here with women in STEM. Its a complicated issue, but one that has a rather straightforward solution: Treat men and women the same when it comes to science and everything else, come to think of it.

Lest we forget young girls love science just as much as young boys. Despite everything going against them, some of them manage to get into a STEM field. Its hardly the end of the fight at this point, though.

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to become a paleontologist, Franzi Sattler, a palaeontologist specializing in evolutionary biology and biodiversity from the Free University of Berlin, told IFLScience. I didn’t even know the word for it (dinosaur woman never failed to confuse my parents), but I was sure that this is what I was born to do.

Sattler has worked with Tristan, one of the worlds best-preserved T. rex specimens. Although she says that there are a lot of amazing women of all ages that are proud to support each other in the paleontological community, she still feels the pressure of being a woman in a still male-dominated field a lot sometimes.

I constantly have the feeling that people expect me to get married, start a family and drop everything that I have worked for, Sattler adds. Stable positions and guaranteed funding would be one way to make academia more desirable for young female researchers.

Be Bold For Change

The theme of 2017s International Womens Day is Be Bold For Change. Its ridiculous that asking for a level playing field for both men and women is considered bold, but here we are, in 2017, still wondering when thisll be achieved.

If youd like to see more done to help boost the support and recruitment of women in STEM, then there are several things you can do.

Sign up here to campaign for womens education as part of International Womens Day. Become a STEM Ambassador in the UK or the US, or donate to one of these absolutely amazing charities that help get girls and women into science. March alongside them, and stand up for science.

And, if you know a woman in STEM, take some time to let them know how awesome they are. By merely studying a STEM subject, they are going against societys tide.

In this sense, any women involved in STEM whether they are an elderly researcher or a little girl standing up for science are pioneers, and they deserve not just our applause, but action, to change things for the better.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/women-in-stem-around-the-world-where-weve-improved-and-where-we-can-do-better/

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Congress Passes Bill To Recruit More Women Into STEM Careers

Update: We mistakenly reported that the pro-STEM bills signed by Trump were Executive Orders. In fact, they were Congressional bills, and this has now been corrected.

President Trump is infamous for his treatment of women, and we at IFLScience have made it no secret we find his administrations attitude towards science is one of near-total disdain. Thats why, when the Commander-in-Chief recently added his signature to two bills in the Oval Office bills designed to recruit more women into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs it came as quite a welcome surprise.

As per the first bill, HR 321, NASA must actively ramp up its attempts to recruit and encourage more young women into taking up STEM careers. NASA will also be required to report to Congressional committees with regards to how much progress it is making on this issue.

The second bill, HR 255, authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF), the source of nearly a quarter of all federally supported scientific research, to boost its recruitment efforts. Women graduating in STEM subjects will be aided in taking up STEM careers in the worlds of both academia and industry.

Although the fine details of the bills are somewhat lacking its not clear what encouraging means in practical terms its hard to disagree with the President signing off on these, which were given bipartisan support in Congress. However, things are not as benevolent as they seem.

During the signing ceremony at the Oval Office Trump said it was unfair that only 1 in 4 women with a degree in one of these fields ends up working in them.

This likely refers to the results of a US census back in 2012, which notes that just 25 percent of both men and women with a bachelor’s in a STEM subject find work in a STEM field, a problem linked to the lack of funding and career support for science in general. The figure for women alone was actually closer to 1 in 7 far worse than Trumps team have made out.

Just 1 in 7 women with STEM degrees go into STEM fields. US Census

This depressing statistic isnt just down to the well-documented recruiting bias against women in STEM fields it goes back to education, and how, from a very young age, most girls arent raised to think that they are just as able to become scientists as men are. Its not clear that the new Education Secretary, someone who has no experience working in schools whatsoever, has any plans to address this issue.

Mind you, its not ever been clear that Trump himself knows much about women in STEM. Back in 2016, when questioned on the subject, he dismissively said: there are a host of STEM programs already in existence.

And then, of course, theres the Trump administrations anti-science agenda. From a Cabinet stuffed with climate change deniers to enormous budget cuts to federal science research programs including a 24 percent cut to the beleaguered Environmental Protection Agencys (EPA) budget these Congressional bills have cropped up at a strange time in the American political discourse.

Theres something decidedly paradoxical about encouraging women to take up STEM careers when it looks like there wont be many left by the time they graduate. Science needs funding, plain and simple, but every action taken by the resurgent Republican Party in 2017 amounts to nothing less than trampling on so much of Americas scientific legacy.

With this in mind, its worth pointing out that as the pro-STEM bills were signed, Trump also added his signature to one of his own Executive Orders, one that aims to review the way public waterways are protected from pollution under the EPAs Clean Water Rule.

This act essentially ensures over 110 million Americans have safe drinking water, and its backed by hard-and-fast science. This order seeks to weaken it just so fossil fuel companies can get away with a little more fracking and a little less regulation.

So yes, the signing of the STEM bills are a good thing but the wider picture confirms that Trump is far more of a threat to science than he is a friend to it.

[H/T: Chicago Tribune]

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/president-trump-signs-executive-orders-to-help-women-take-up-stem-careers/

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By Age 6 Girls Are More Likely To Think “Genius” And “Brilliance” Are Male Traits, Not Female

In a heartbreaking new study, scientists have discovered that gender stereotypes can start affecting children from as young assix, the age when girls start thinking of traits like intelligence, brilliance, and genius, as distinctly male.

Its no secret that there is an imbalance of women and men working in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In fact, in the US, where this study was conducted, only 30 percent of people employed in STEM positions are women.

Hoping to find out why this is, researchers from New York University, University of Illinois, and Princeton decided to investigate several possible factors, including whether societal gender stereotypes such as associating intellectual talent with males affected girls choices from a young age.

Their study found that girls as young as six believed that exceptional talent was a boys trait, and their male counterparts are more likely to exhibit “brilliance”. Its also the age they began steering themselves away from activities aimed at the really, really smart, choosing ones aimed at children who try really, really hard instead.

“Not only do we see thatgirlsjust starting out in school are absorbing some of society’s stereotyped notions of brilliance, but these younggirlsare also choosing activities based on these stereotypes, said senior author Andrei Cimpian from NYU in a statement. This is heartbreaking.”

The study looked at 400 children, half of whom were girls, between the ages of five and seven years old to evaluate their opinions and attitudes towards the notions of intelligence and ability.

Our society tends to associate brilliance with men more than with women, and this notion pushes women away from jobs that are perceived to require brilliance, said co-author Lin Bian. We wanted to know whether young children also endorse these stereotypes.

Using the phrase really, really smart as a childs way of understanding the adult concept of brilliance, they carried out several tests to probe the influence of gender stereotypes.

In one example the children were read a story about a really, really smart protagonist that was not revealed to be male or female. Afterwards they were then asked to select the most likely protagonist from among pictures of men and women. At age five, most of the children picked their own gender, proving they viewed their own gender positively, however the sixand seven-year olds mostly picked the male.

Another experiment had the children express their preference for two games they played, one described as for children who are really, really smart and the other for children who try really, really hard. Their findings showed that both genders were interested in the hard game but the sixand seven-year old girls shied away from the smart one.

Already by this young age girls are discounting the evidence that is in front of their eyes and basing their ideas about who is really, really smart on other things, said Cimpian.

Overall, their study highlights how even young children can absorb and be influenced by gender stereotypes that still exist in today’s society, such as that of brilliance or giftedness being more common in men, and this is having a detrimental effect on girls futures.

Because these ideas are present at such an early age, they have so much time to affect the educational trajectories of boys and girls, Cimpian explained.

The authors concluded in their paper, published in the journal Science, that women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance (such as physics and philosophy) because societys gender stereotypes harbored from a young age are likely to discourage womens pursuit of many prestigious careers.

The present results suggest a sobering conclusion: many children assimilate the idea that brilliance is a male quality at a young age,” the study states. “This stereotype begins to shape children’s interests as soon as it is acquired and is thus likely to narrow the range of careers they will one day contemplate.”

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/by-age-6-girls-are-more-likely-to-think-genius-and-brilliance-are-male-traits-not-female/

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This Popular Math Class May Be At The Heart Of The STEM Gender Gap

The gender gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is widely reported. Only one-quarter of college graduates entering careers in STEM in the U.S. are women. The numbers are even more dismal in fields like physics and engineering. Only about 1 in 10 physicists and astronomers are women. About 8 percent of mechanical engineers are female.

But here’s the rub: Girls are just as interested and are definitely not less skilled in STEM subjects than boys. In fourth grade, both genders report similar rates of interest in science. From K-12, female and male students generally perform equally well on standardized math and science tests. High school boys and girls also enroll in advanced science courses at comparable rates.

Ellis et al

So, what exactly happens to all these STEM-loving girls?

There are many “leaks” in the so-called STEM pipeline, including educational shortfalls and cultural issues like stereotyping. But there may be one issue in particular that’s having a profound impact on the number of women in STEM: the notoriously difficult college math class, Calculus I, a new study from Colorado State University finds.

Male and female students lose confidence in their math skills at a similar rate in Calc I. But women are far more likely to be discouraged by the class, a necessary process for those pursuing a career in STEM, according to the report, published in the journal PLOS ONE last month.

Researchers found that female students have the same level of academic preparedness and similar career goals as their male counterparts, yet they’re 1.5 times more likely than men to leave their STEM studies after taking Calc I. 

Part of the problem is that women enter the class with less confidence in the first place. When comparing men and women with above-average mathematical abilities, the researchers found that female students had significantly lower mathematical confidence both at the start and the end of the college term. 

The findings suggest that a major factor in women’s decisions to leave STEM paths after Calculus I have nothing to do with ability, but confidence in their ability. (Though this particular study did not examine students’ grades in the class, a 2015 paper about college math concluded that women outperform men in Calc I.)

“When women are leaving, it is because they don’t think they can do it – not because they can’t do it,” said study co-author Bailey Fosdick in a press release.

Fixing this leak at the “Calculus I juncture” of the STEM pipeline could have an extraordinary effect on the number of women continuing their studies and getting jobs in the field, the researchers said.

“Our findings indicate that if women persisted in STEM at the same rate as men starting in Calculus I, the number of women entering the STEM workforce would increase by 75 percent,” the study reads.

This boost could go a long way, researchers said, in fulfilling the need for more STEM workers in the U.S. The Obama administration has said that 1 million additional STEM graduates will be needed to fulfill demand by 2022.

To plug the leak, the researchers said a multi-pronged approach will be necessary to raise the confidence in all STEM students. Improving teaching quality and encouraging students will be critical first steps.

“If female students are entering college excited to be challenged, supported, and surrounded by like-minded STEM people and they have a negative initial experience with a STEM course, it makes sense that this could be the final experience to encourage them to pursue a different (and non-STEM) field,” Jessica Ellis, a study co-author and professor of mathematics at Colorado State University, told Vocativ on Tuesday.

Ellis said she tries to “raise the confidence” of all students in her classes. Since the study, she said she’s made a special effort “to make sure women have a voice and if they get something wrong once, to let them know that’s good and not bad.”

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/calculus-stem-gender-gap_us_57a1b9eee4b0e2e15eb7df83?section=&

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Even In Equal Societies Girls Have Higher Math Anxiety Than Boys

Math anxiety — the phenomenon of having such negative emotions about math that one avoids the subject — affects females at higher rates than males, but only in developed nations, according to a new study. 

The researchers from the University of Missouri, the University of California-Irvine and the University of Glasgow in Scotland found that in less developed countries all students — both male and female — have high levels of math anxiety.

They studied data from over 700,000 15-year-olds across the world who participated in the Program for International Student Assessment to glean results, which were published in the journal PLOS One. What they found is somewhat puzzling. 

While “the general belief in the field is that as society became more gender equal, with more women in politics … and [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields and so forth, this would provide more role models, and therefore the gender differences in math anxiety and math performance would disappear,” David Geary, Curators Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri, told The Huffington Post in an interview. “We found the opposite.”

Overall, students in more developed nations — where performance is higher — have less math anxiety than students in less developed nations, the study found. As math performance increases, overall levels of anxiety tends to decrease. But there’s a catch.

“The math anxiety of girls didn’t decrease as rapidly as the math anxiety of boys. As a result, when you looked at economically developed countries with good educational systems, you begin to see a gap where girls have more math anxiety than boys. In less developed countries, everyone has high math anxiety,” Greary said. Even when researchers control for performance, girls “still have more math anxiety than they should.”

So why is this happening?

One possibility is that parents tend to instill a sense that math is more important for boys than it is for girls. Using a PISA survey that asked students about their parents’ attitudes toward math and one that asked parents about the subject, researchers found that parents of girls found math less significant. 

“Whether that directly contributes to math anxiety gap or is a reflection of that we don’t know,” Greary said. “But it really is the wrong message for girls and women, particularly in a modern economy where everyone needs reasonably good math skills.”

Researchers also found that a country’s proportion of women working in STEM fields had no bearing on the levels of math anxiety felt by teen girls. Whether or not a student attended a single-sex school also did not have a significant impact. 

Greary is calling on parents and teachers to focus more on the usefulness of math in everyday life. 

“We don’t really know why the math anxiety doesn’t fully disappear as much in girls as in boys,” he said. But either way, leaders need to “focus on the long-term usefulness of math and the greater options it’s going to give you in life. Even if you want to go into business and move into management, you have to have reasonably good math skills.”

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/04/27/math-anxiety-girls-study_n_9790134.html

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