Women bucking the notion that STEM is for men

Jan 20 2014 - 10:48am

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Photo illustration by  SIERRA BRUGGINK/Weber High School/brugginksi@wsdstudent.net
Photo illustration by  SIERRA BRUGGINK/Weber High School/brugginksi@wsdstudent.net
Photo illustration by  SIERRA BRUGGINK/Weber High School/brugginksi@wsdstudent.net
Photo illustration by  SIERRA BRUGGINK/Weber High School/brugginksi@wsdstudent.net

In 1766, Mary Goddard became the first woman publisher in America. In 1872, Victoria Claflin Woodhull became the first female presidential candidate in the United States.

Women have slowly been making their way into the working world for centuries. In the past 50 years, support for gender equality has progressed by leaps and bounds. Part of this movement involves encouragement for girls to try STEM careers. STEM is a commonly used abbreviation that stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Educators, counselors and administrators are pushing for high-school girls to explore careers that used to be limited to men. Fields like chemistry, physics, computer science and mechanical engineering have often been considered boys-only clubs. These days, females are not only allowed but encouraged to try out these paths.

Samantha Anaya, a NUAMES sophomore, says she agrees with the nurturing of women's STEM interests.

"This way we can help show that a woman can do all of the things that a man can do," Anaya says.

Morgan High School junior Karlie Dotson is considering becoming an anthropologist or sociologist, and she, too agrees with the prodding.

"I think it will help them realize that girls can choose whatever job they want," Dotson says.

Wired differently?

It seems that females are getting sick of some of their age-old roles. In the past, girls have often been confined to domestic pursuits, sometimes with the option of being a nurse or a teacher or something else considered appropriate for the more "delicate" sex.

However, the world is beginning to consider the idea that men and women may be intellectual equals. This is demonstrated by the international uproar over a 2013 study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania that seems to show evidence that the brains of men and women are "wired differently."

Many in the scientific community, including men, reject the idea and say that the differences in connectivity are merely a product of experience and social conditioning. Some men feel that they are being pushed out of their careers of choice because of the ambitious women entering, or feel that females don't have to work as hard for their positions in STEM.

Weston Lee, a sophomore at Weber High, takes this stance. Although he agrees that "a woman can do everything a man can do," he also says, "I think women should be offered the same scholarships and programs as men when it comes to STEM. I completely disagree with offering ... opportunities solely to girls because there are less of them who go into the field. It is sexist ... to offer scholarships only to girls, or boys. Equality is a privilege, absolutely not a right. If women would like to venture into the STEM pathway, they darn better do just as much as men to get there."

But Ian Robinson, a sophomore at Ogden High, takes a different view.

"While there is a limited amount of jobs, it shouldn't matter which gender fills them," Robinson says. "When it comes to higher brain functions and complex thinking, women and men are the same. Opinions and perspectives may conflict, but intellectually they are no different."

New horizons

However, Weber High sophomore Avanlee Jessop doesn't see a great necessity for the effort to get girls into STEM careers, stating that she thinks, "Women already have the equal right."

There are many great opportunities for girls in these fields. In August 2011, the executive office of the U.S. president released a document entitled "Women and Girls in STEM." It estimated that only 24 percent of scientists and engineers were female. However, the women in these fields earned 33 percent more, on average, than females pursuing other career paths. This is part of the reason for the push to close the gender gap in these areas.

"It's a good idea to encourage women to have a career that will better support themselves and a possible future family or spouse,' says Laura Deru, a Morgan High senior.

However, there may also be a negative bit to the STEM push.

Levi Hilton, a Weber High senior, says that, "More girls might scare the guys away."

"It's always good info and learning," says Jessop. "But I think a downside could be pushing women too far to where they feel pressured and don't like it."

It would appear that the encouragement for girls to find out about STEM fields is working well. Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement.

"I would recommend that educators work together to create events for girls that revolve around the STEM system. They should think of creative, fun ways to capture their attention," Anaya suggests.

Jessop shares a similar sentiment, saying that classes should be made "inviting and enjoyable, so that it's something they look forward to doing."

Elle Gossner is a sophomore at Weber High School. She enjoys musical theater and reading. Contact her at gnorkyone@gmail.com.

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