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Why Girls Are Needed in STEM?

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Written by Menna Hassan


SDG number 5, United Nations World Conferences on Women, International Day of Women and Girls in Science, etc.


You might have heard about organizations that aim to empower women in science fields, but have you ever wondered "why do these movements matter?"


I will tell you the core reason why getting more girls into STEM is important not only for economic growth but also for the next generation of scientists. Let's go back to 1954 when Roger Bannister achieved what everyone "thought" is impossible. At that time, everyone believed that no one can run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Runners had been chasing the goal seriously since at least 1886, and the challenge involved the most brilliant coaches and gifted athletes in North America, Europe, and Australia. They were striving against the clock, but the elusive four minutes had always beaten them.


On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the four-minute barrier to run a mile with a time of three minutes, fifty-nine, and four-tenths of a second. After that, Just 46 days after Bannister’s feat, John Landy, an Australian runner, broke the barrier again, with a time of 3 minutes 58 seconds. Then, just a year later, three runners broke the four-minute barrier in a single race. Today, we have 1,497 people who broke the four-minute barrier.


How did 1,497 people achieve what everyone "believed" was impossible for many years? Is there a secret formula for success? Do we really know what we are capable of doing or do we get limited by what others say to us? Do our thoughts make us live in a mirage and affect everything we do in life?


Actually, it is all about our mindset. In the previous story, the runners of the past had been held back by a mindset that said they could not surpass the four-minute per mile. When that limit was broken by Roger Bannister, the others saw that they could do something they had previously thought impossible.


How is the story of Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute barrier related to the importance of women's representation in STEM fields?


Imagine you are a young girl interested in pursuing a career in science or technology, your teacher tells you that you cannot because you are a girl, your male classmates tell you these fields are not for girls and you try to look around you to find women who work in STEM, but unfortunately, there is only one or even none. Wouldn't that make you rethink your choice for pursuing STEM? Wouldn't that make you feel you have limited capabilities? Wouldn't that make you wonder if you should be really passionate about STEM?


But what if you live in a world where there are many women in STEM? You will always be encouraged to pursue STEM. You will not face discrimination for being a girl interested in STEM. And most importantly, you will not have self-doubt in your skills.


Let's take a look at gender distribution in STEM jobs. Women in the STEM workforce represent 27% only! We should aim to increase this percentage as soon as possible because this will encourage young girls to look at these women and be inspired to pursue their careers in STEM as well. Imagine having the next Ada Lovelace (the first computer programmer), Marie Curie (discovered polonium and radium), Gertrude Elion (pioneered a new scientific approach to drug development that accelerated medical research), Sameera Mousa ( worked on using nuclear technology for peace), Margaret Hamilton (the first computer software programmer), etc. When young girls see women in STEM, this breaks the stereotype that science is not for girls as Roger Bannister broke the myth of four minutes per mile.


Another reason why girls are "Needed" in STEM is that the next innovations require diverse skills and perspectives. Why is this important?


One example of what non-diversity can lead to is the deadly car safety features for women. When engineers test the safety of cars, they use a dummy the size of an average male body. That's why women are nearly 20% more likely to be killed and 73% more likely to be seriously injured than a man involved in a similar car accident!


In conclusion, women are needed in STEM to show young girls that they can pursue STEM, and that will increase women's representation in the STEM field which will consequently lead to perspectives and skills diversity among scientists when working on future inventions.



References:
  1. What Breaking the 4-Minute Mile Taught Us About the Limits of Conventional Thinking https://hbr.org/2018/03/what-breaking-the-4-minute-mile-taught-us-about-the-limits-of-conventional-thinking

  2. A Deadly Truth: Car Safety Features Are Built for Men https://tinyurl.com/Car-Safety-Features

  3. The Crash Test Bias: How Male-Focused Testing Puts Female Drivers at Risk https://tinyurl.com/The-Crash-Test-Bias


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