Traditionally, men choose career paths in the science/technology/engineering/math (STEM) fields, while women follow a path in the liberal arts, social sciences, or humanities. While there’s no shame in being a woman who majors in British literature or lands a job as a curator at an art museum, people of all genders should feel empowered to follow their heart and study whatever they want to.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, females have made up a larger percentage of students attending college than males have since 1979. The most recent data indicates that females made up 56.8% of the college population in 2012, composing nearly three million more students in the higher education system than males did. With so many students pursuing degrees in hope of well-paying jobs in the private and public sectors, how many of them are women interested in pursuing careers in STEM?
Figures from the National Girls Collaborative Project show that girls perform just as well as boys do in K-12 education on math and science, and go on to receive approximately half of the science and engineering bachelor degrees. While most degrees awarded to women in STEM are in biological sciences, fewer are awarded in mathematics, computer science, and engineering. Even fewer women hold jobs in the STEM sector; most hold jobs in the social and biological sciences, but are incredibly underrepresented in the ‘hard sciences,’ like engineering.
Opportunities for women to continue doing work in STEM are necessary, as it provides a pathway to diversify the workplace and give them the support they need to continue performing well in education.
When it comes to scholarships, there are quite a few available for college-aged women interested in the sciences. The Google Anita Borg Scholarship provides $10,000 to female undergraduate and graduate students majoring in computer science, computer engineering, or similar fields. This scholarship is available internationally, not simply in the U.S.
The Society of Women Engineers has a number of scholarships available for females pursuing engineering, ranging from $1,000 to $2,000. While the deadline for rising college sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students to apply has passed, the applications for incoming college freshmen are open until May 15th. You can find the application and more here.
For girls interested in STEM who aren’t in college yet, there are a number of unique summer programs that allow girls to get hands-on experience programming, doing environmental science, and much more. The Alice Workshop for Girls is located at Guilford College in North Carolina, and is open for middle school-aged girls to learn how to program virtual worlds. The program is hosted by college-aged women pursuing careers in STEM, and information and the application can be found here.
For girls in the 5th to 11th grades, Texas Tech University offers Science: It’s a Girl Thing, a summer camp designed to provide strong role models and brief glimpses into the possibilities of a STEM career. According to the program website, it helps underrepresented girls get exposure to the field, along with deflecting some of the myths and misconceptions about what it means to have a career in science.
There are a number of other scholarships, programs, and mentorships out there that encourage and teach women how to pursue a career in STEM. It’s important that we, as a community, continue to support our fellow women in chasing their dreams, because people of all genders should never be afraid to follow their hearts.
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