The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated each year on February 11. In 2015, the United Nations selected this day to promote and celebrate the involvement of women and girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
What is International Day of Women and Girls in Science?
On this day every year, The United Nations works closely with international governments, universities, and organizations. Together, they not only highlight achievements that women and girls have made in these fields, but also promote their continued involvement and advancement in these areas. This year’s theme is I.D.E.A.S. – Bringing Everyone Forward for Sustainable and Equitable Development.
Why is it important to celebrate and promote women and girls in STEM?
Women and girls have made great career strides in the last few decades. We’re earning college degrees in greater numbers – surpassing the number earned by men –, being paid more, and even becoming the household breadwinner.
Despite these achievements, women and girls still lag behind in our participation within the STEM sector. Here are some common reasons for this.
Cultural expectations and stereotypes
Unfortunately, women and girls still face cultural expectations and pressure about their role in society as a female, especially in developing countries.
But even in developed countries, girls are still encouraged to become caretakers and mothers, and women are expected to prioritize becoming a mother over climbing the corporate ladder.
In addition, women and girls still face the outdated stereotype that they’re not as smart or capable in math and science as men and boys.
Starting from a young age, boys are encouraged to develop their math and science skills, while girls are encouraged to focus on reading and language. This cultural conditioning may lead to a growth mindset for boys and a fixed mindset for girls. In other words, if a boy does poorly on a math test, he may receive mentorship and is encouraged to work harder to improve. A girl, however, may be told that she’s just not good at math – which may lead to her accepting this belief and pursuing other academic areas.
The social and academic conditioning of women and girls may contribute to the gender pay gap, since careers in STEM fields tend to pay more.
Lack of women in these fields can have real-world implications – with sometimes dangerous or deadly results.
Until all too recently, the medical field didn’t routinely conduct clinical trials using female participants. When this became standard practice, we learned that women often show different symptoms for the same disease and respond differently to medications than men do.
And the lives and safety of women will be greatly improved now that the auto industry is using female-sized crash test dummies in its vehicle safety testing.
It’s clear that we must encourage and promote equal access for women and girls in STEM wherever and however we can.
What can you do to support and celebrate women and girls in STEM?
Even if you don’t personally work within a science or other STEM field, there are things you can do to support those who do!
Learn about the women who have made contributions to STEM fields
We’ve all heard about the ladies behind Hidden Figures. But did you know about these other historical inventions that women created?
Encourage women and girls to pursue STEM interests
Have a daughter who’s showing an interest in web development? Have her check out Girls Who Code. Or maybe your young granddaughter loves learning about historical inventions – she would love this compiled book list of female innovators.
Support the women you know in STEM fields
If you do know women working within a STEM field, support her when you can by attending or promoting local or online events, classes, programs, and presentations. If you’re in the market for a new healthcare provider or auto mechanic, consider a local female professional you’ve heard good things about. Shop at women-owned businesses when you can.
Endorse orgs and corporations who promote women in STEM
Your dollars can help support these initiatives and contribute to girls’ and women’s continued development in these areas.
Encourage boys to support girls
Finally, it’s important to encourage the boys and men in your lives to support their sisters and female friends interested in STEM. This encourages mutual opportunities and respect, which helps us all move closer to equal access and gender equality.