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Thursday, May 13, 2021

OPINION: Searching for Equality in STEM

Gender inequality in science, technology, engineering and math professions has been a hot topic for a long time. But there’s still work to do to narrow wage gaps and make sure everyone has a fair shot.

There are a lot of stereotypes young girls grow up with that discourage them from pursuing interests in subjects like science and math. Toys like chemistry sets and construction blocks are marketed to boys while girls get toys like Easy-Bake Ovens and Barbies.

It’s a trend that’s begun to shift more in recent years. Take the brand GoldieBlox, which has been making engineering toys aimed specifically at girls, or the changes made to Lego products to include female character models in more STEM positions.

However, the challenge to go further still remains. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, “[Women] 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.”

Men and women both deserve equal opportunities to do jobs they are passionate about and that fit well into their lifestyles. People with STEM degrees have a tremendous amount of opportunity in their careers.

On average, they earn 26 percent more than people in non-STEM fields. STEM jobs are expected to grow 17 percent from 2008 to 2018 and in 2010, there were 7.6 million STEM jobs.

Not every man wants to be an engineer and not every woman wants to be a preschool teacher. Some do, and that’s perfectly fine, but those who want to do something else should have that freedom.

It all starts with parenting. If kids feel limited, they will grow up to be limited. If kids feel discouraged or afraid of doing something different, they won’t push any harder.

Parents should set their children free, let them follow their interests and curiosities to wherever they may take them.

The same should be said for teachers. Classrooms should be places where all parts of the world can be explored by boys and girls alike. Give the boys a chance to love art and give girls a chance to love math.

That freedom should be especially broad in colleges, where the resources for building one’s interests are exponential.

If a young woman wants to major in computer science, she shouldn’t feel intimidated. If a young man wants to major in creative writing, he shouldn’t feel intimidated.

Every person, regardless of gender, ethnicity or background should have the chance to better themselves if they want. Education is one of the most valuable resources we have, and sharing it equally should be a primary goal for future generations.

At Western, there are about 15,000 reasons why equal opportunity is important, none any more so than another.

It’s important to keep that in perspective when students begin transitioning into the “real world.” It’s out there that even more of a difference can be made.

Children can be raised without stereotypes, young adults can be shown that they can live their lives however they want.

It’s all about making progress.

 

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