Megha Bharadwaj is working to organize a STEM career night as her Girl Scout Gold Award project and will be sharing her experiences with us over the next few months. Megha is back this month with some more insight into how she is working to affect the gender gap in STEM professions.
By Megha Bharadwaj, SWENexter, High School Student
When hosting any sort of event you need a neat name. A catchy phrase, a cool slogan, something to get people’s attention. The process is organic; You’ll think of something, and then change your mind until finally, BAM, the perfect name comes to you: Rise Above 25.
How did I find mine? It all started with my research. I wanted to find out how many women were actually involved in STEM careers in the United States and the first thing that came to my attention was a statistics summary from the U.S. Department of Commerce. What I found was shocking. One of the opening facts of the summary titled Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation reads “Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. This has been the case throughout the past decade, even as college educated women have increased their share of the overall workforce.” How crazy is that?
Let’s break it down. In 2009 there were 73,580 men and 67,058 female in the work force. Women represented 48% of the total working population which is pretty even. When you break it down farther into STEM careers, men hold 5,640 positions while women only hold 1,790 positions; That’s only 24%.
Why is this gender gap present? It’s partially because young girls lack female role models in this area. There are so many strong female role models in the entertainment industry that are household names: Jennifer Morrison who plays Emma Swan on Once Upon A Time, Harry Potter star Emma Watson, singer/songwriter Beyonce, I could go on and on. But, go and ask a middle school girl to name a female biologist or engineer they look up to. You most likely won’t get an answer back.
And that’s what I aim to solve with my project. I want to prove young girls in my community and beyond with real-life role models. Women they can aspire to be. Women whose names become household names. Women they can interact with and learn from. A role model is the most important thing young people can have because of the hope and inspiration they provide, and I believe part of my duty as someone who has many strong female leaders in my life is to pay it forward.
I believe that with my project I can help the disparity present in the STEM fields close; I believe I can help that number rise above 25. And that journey begins by providing these young girls with real life people they can look up to and get inspired by every day.
Go to SWE.org/SWENext to learn more about SWE’s K-12 outreach program SWE Next.