Gender and STEM: From Legos to Learning Code


SACHA is speaking about Gender and STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – today at CREST – Current Research in Engineering, Science, and Technology. (So many acronyms!)

CREST is put on by the awesome folks at WISE – Women in Science and Engineering.

Here are some of the links, videos, reports, and articles that we talked about.

To get excited for the discussion we watched the amazing panel from the What Makes a Man conference – Gender in Tech: (Un)Learning the (Bro) Code.

We started with Emily Graslie of the Brain Scoop’s amazing video ‘Where My Ladies At?’

You should also check out this incredible profile of Emily by Cosmo that tells her story of how she became the Chief Curiosity Correspondent for one of the largest natural history museums in the world:

The whole model of how science is being taught in our schools needs to change. I want women and girls to feel empowered in their own knowledge-seeking. I want there to be less of a stigma against inquisitive learning. It was like that for me in high school — when you expressed an interest in science or biology, people made fun of you for being a nerd. It has this negative connotation that’s detrimental for fostering an interest in science for women especially. I always encourage girls to pursue what interests them. I didn’t get to be where I am because of how I look. It’s not like somebody said I should be doing this position. I’m not an actress playing a role. I’m playing myself, the person who was studying art and who didn’t realize I could be good at science.

lego add 80s vs today

We talked about how lego marketing has shifted to market just to boys.

Check out Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian’s videos about lego’s new ‘Friends’ line:

We got down to facts and talked about the numbers. From the report ‘Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation’ by the US Department of Commerce:

  • Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they 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.
  • Women with STEM jobs earned 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs considerably higher than the STEM premium for men. As a result, the gender wage gap is smaller in STEM jobs than in non STEM jobs.
  • Women hold a disproportionately low share of STEM undergraduate degrees, particularly in engineering.
  • Women with a STEM degree are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation; they are more likely to work in education or healthcare.
  • There are many possible factors contributing to the discrepancy of women and men in STEM jobs, including: a lack of female role models, gender stereotyping, and less family friendly flexibility in the STEM fields. Regardless of the causes, the findings of this report provide evidence of a need to encourage and support women in STEM.

math is hard

We know that even though there is still a gender gap for women in university, that we have more women than ever graduating with STEM degrees.  Yet on average women with STEM degrees stay in the field for seven years.

More numbers:

  • Of 716 women interviewed who had left tech professions only 3% said that they would consider returning
  • One quarter of the women interviewed said that they left tech because of discrimination – discrimination – age, sex, religion, race.

This is a culture problem not a training problem:

It is popular to characterize the gender gap in tech in terms of a pipeline problem: not enough girls studying math and science. However, there are several indications that this may no longer be the case, at least not to the extent that it once was. High school girls and boys participate about equally in STEM electives. Elite institutions like Stanford and Berkeley now report that about 50% of their introductory computer science students are women. Yet just last year, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that men are employed in STEM occupations at about twice the rate of women with the same qualifications.

We know that teacher bias can come into play in young women’s experiences of learning in STEM fields:

Women of colour quite often experience both sexism and racism at work; sharing stories that they are more likely to be mistaken as the janitor than as a scientist.

From the report ‘Double Jeopardy? Gender Bias Against Women of Colour in Science’:

Four typical biases against women of colour in STEM:

  • having to prove yourself again and again
  • walking a tightrope between being seen as too masculine or too feminine
  • running into the Maternal Wall or motherhood bias
  • experience a Tug of War as the few women in the company fight for the one or two ‘token’ female slots

Feeling down? Need some reminders of how much change we’ve made for women in STEM and how many amazing women out there have your back?

What it is is beautiful1 what it is is beautiful 2

Also, remember that amazing moment when India successfully sent an orbiter to Mars and it challenged folks ideas of what rocket scientists look like:


Lastly, the Doubleclicks write songs about geekery, nerdery, and sometimes body image. The amazing song ‘Nothing to Prove’ is a geek girl anthem:

— by crickett


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