Women in STEM- a Georgian perspective
“I want to know exemplary women scientists so I can believe I can become one of them.”
What is this video about?
Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF) Georgia, in cooperation with the United Nations Association of Georgia (UNA Georgia), produced a video for Women’s March in which young girls point out the stereotypes that dictate that girls do not belong in science and technology, as well as how a lack of female science role models influences their decision to become scientists in Georgia. Our goal was to provide the young girls a space to reflect on and discuss their feelings and observations about why there aren’t many women in leadership in the STEM fields and, therefore, to create awareness that these barriers can be overcome.
Girls and women in Georgia and other places are less likely to pursue STEM careers for various reasons, including gender biases and discrimination, stereotypes, a lack of role models, and insufficient support.
Women in STEM Statistics
The number of women in STEM education is steadily increasing, but men still outnumber women in these fields, especially in high-paid jobs. Globally, approximately 30% of researchers are women (around 3% of students studying information and communication technology (ICT) are women, 5% for courses in mathematics and statistics, and 8% for courses in engineering, manufacturing, and construction). This underrepresentation occurs throughout the world. In addition, studies have shown that women in STEM fields publish less, receive less research funding, and advance less than their male colleagues. Women who decide to take on the challenge and pursue a career in STEM may later experience unequal pay. The Global Gender Gap score in 2020 was 68.6%, indicating a narrowing of the gap on average, while the remaining gap is now 31.4%. However, to truly reduce the gender gap, it is necessary to look beyond the numbers and determine the specific factors that discourage women from pursuing careers in the STEM fields.
Women are underrepresented in STEM globally, including in Georgia, despite it being one of the most demanding and well-paid industries today. It is particularly concerning that Georgia also experiences one of the highest gender pay gaps, amounting to 37.2 percent in the country. This means that not only are women facing barriers in accessing STEM opportunities, but they are also facing significant wage disparities compared to their male counterparts in Georgia. Only 12% of workers in Georgia’s tech industries are women. However, the social, cultural, and gender norms and stereotypes that prevent girls and women from choosing STEM as a career are the bigger problem than the lack of education related to science and technology. According to data, in Georgia, the proportion of age-appropriate boys and girls enrolled in primary school has recently hovered around 96% for both sexes. Women outnumber men in advanced degrees in the social sciences, business and law, humanities and arts, and science. Men dominate engineering, manufacturing, and construction programs. Doctoral students also have a similar gender distribution. However, we also see that 50 men and 62 women received PhDs in science in Georgia in 2022. Where do these girls disappear after graduating from the universities? Why are they not represented as top researchers and scientists in their fields?
The fact that technology is still considered a “men’s job” explains why fewer women are employed in this field in Georgia. WECF Georgia interviewed representatives from the Akhmeta Innovation Center, where we plan to open a lab to help combine STEM and art teaching methods. The center promotes youth involvement in technology. In an interview with WECF Georgia, the interviewees stated that the stereotype that technical subjects are only for boys has an impact on girls’ motivation. Girls are limited by the stereotype that boys have math brains. These stereotypes teach girls that such subjects are beyond their capacity to comprehend.
Studies show that despite significant improvements in participation in STEM fields by girls and women over the past few decades, negative stereotypes about their abilities persist. One common misconception is that boys are better at math than girls and that men should do scientific work. In the presence of gender and cultural stereotypes implying that men are better at math, every encounter with science and technology becomes more challenging, resulting in discouragement among girls. Because of their exposure to these stereotypes, parents, kids, and teachers may make assumptions about which science classes are suitable for boys and girls as early as elementary school.
Another reason for the large gender gap in STEM fields and why girls are uninterested in these fields is a lack of female role models. The interviews also emphasized the importance of having female role models, stating that if girls had more role models, they would have been more motivated. Girls are more active when given an opportunity. There is generally a need for more knowledge about what women can accomplish in the STEM fields.
There are multiple actions to be taken to encourage girls to pursue STEM fields. Still, one of the most crucial is to train teachers because they are the ones who can inspire students and challenge gender stereotypes and norms that shape young people’s career choices at an early age. Additionally, it’s critical to incorporate non-formal education strategies into formal education. Promote extracurricular STEAM programs in schools such as events, master classes, and interactions with people from different scientific professions, for instance, all have a big impact on how students choose their future careers. This will help the youth better understand what it’s like to be involved in STEM.
With the SENSE-STEAM project, we aim to raise awareness of the problems girls and women face and their causes and find creative ways to address them.