19 Replies Latest reply: Sep 12, 2014 7:06 PM by calemann RSS

    STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs

    C4D Connoisseur

      Welcome to 'Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs  (STEM)' discussion thread. The featured experts are Ezequiel Tacsir and Ann Shikany who will be providing their views and inputs throughout the week. Their bios are below and we look forward to engaging in discussion with you.


      Ezequiel Tacsir | etacsir@gmail.com


      Ezequiel Tacsir is a Senior researcher at CINVE (Uruguay) and at CIECTI (Argentina). Formerly, he served as a Specialist at the Competitiveness and Innovation Division of the
      Inter-American Development Bank and was part of UNU-MERIT in the Netherlands. His work experience includes responsibilities at the Direction of National Accounts of the Ministry of Economy and at ProsperAr, the Argentine Investment Development Agency; as a consultant for several public agencies and international organizations and research in both public and private organizations in the area of science, technology and innovation policy. Before joining UNU-MERIT in 2005, Ezequiel Tacsir studied Economics at the Buenos
      Aires University (UBA) and followed postgraduate studies in Science, Technology and Innovation Management at the General Sarmiento National University (UNGS) in Argentina and PhD studies at UNU-MERIT. Ezequiel had visiting stages in BETA, Universite Louis Pasteur, and at both Redes, an associated center for the National Research Council (CONICET) and UNGS in Argentina.


      Ann Shikany C3E Network for Women's Leadership in Clean Energy c3enet@gmail.com


      Ann Shikany is Program Analyst at Energetics, Inc., a technology and management consulting firm. In this role she supports the U.S. Department of Energy and private sector
      clients with economic and policy analysis for energy related projects. Prior to Energetics, Ms. Shikany spent two and half years at the Department of Energy.  In the Office of Policy and International Affairs she was a member of the Clean Energy Ministerial Secretariat and helped launch the domestic Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Women in Energy program. While she was in the Loan Programs Office she acted as Special Assistant to the Executive Director, during that time the office completed over $32.4 billion in loans and guarantees for innovative clean energy technologies and advanced technology vehicle manufacturers. Ms. Shikany received an MA from John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), with dual concentrations in international energy and finance, and a BA in Political Science from Kenyon College.

        • Re: STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs
          925404 C4D Enthusiast

          Thanks Zakia for introducing the featured experts in this discussion!


          To help new participants put this into perspective - the reason we are launching this e-discussion is to help generate new discussions and gather information and ideas on the Gender Dimensions of Labor Impacts within Electricity Infrastructure.


          ESMAP together with the World Bank's Social Development team have jointly developed the ‘Gender and Electricity Infrastructure Development’ report which aims to expand knowledge regarding the positive and negative social impacts of energy infrastructure on gender (from generation to transmission and distribution) where these infrastructures are built. Some of these direct and indirect impacts happen during planning and construction process. Land value and price, resettlement expectations, dynamics of local labor markets are a few examples of the new changes during the planning process which may affect men and women differently. Furthermore, rehabilitating and expanding transmission and distribution networks is an important area of focus for the energy sector which has potential impacts. For instance, high voltage transmission lines can result in resettlement or restricted land use issues. However, these impacts have not been well documented and evidences are not solid. If these issues are not addressed during the project preparation and implementation, the expected impacts related to labor market and land could be more adverse on women than men due to lack of women’s land title, low labor force participation and, segregated low pay


          Therefore, it is our pleasure to invite you to join and enrich our discussion by sharing your experiences, emerging tools, available resources, and knowledge!

          This thread is focused on  "Barriers for Women entering into the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Careers". We look forward to hearing from you and our featured experts, Ann and Ezequiel!

            • Re: STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs
              925404 C4D Enthusiast

              Last week, I was part of a workshop organized by IUCN and USAID on Gender and Clean Energy. The topic of STEM came up several times with people trying to understand the barriers of women entering into STEM fields - both at developing and developed countries.


              During the discussions, one of the solutions working groups posed was having a public-private partnership between energy firms and utilities and education/schools to help encourage these energy fields. What other ideas can people think of? Are there lessons from other countries or organizations we can learn from?

                • Re: STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs
                  C4D Explorer

                  Hello, my name is Laura Aguilera, Urban Development and Gender consultant for the Fiscal and Municipal Management Division at the Inter-American Development Bank.


                  We, as organizations and governments have worked very hard in opening opportunities for women in many fields and institutions aiming to close not only the wage gap but other gender gaps as well; however, it seems that we still need to work inside the homes. Stereotypes are very hard to break. As explained by the study: "New Century, Old Disparities; Gender and Ethnic Earning gaps in Latin America and The Caribbean" 2012 (by Hugo Ñopo, lead especialist in education and economics at the IDB), even though there has been great advance for women in several fields, especially in women´s level of education, the wage gap between women and men prevails in great part due to stereotypes and perceptions of male and female roles. Such stereotypes are instilled in children even in very early ages, which might end up discouraging females to pursue ocupations with higher wages in the labor markets. http://publications.iadb.org/handle/11319/6384?locale-attribute=en

                  Is it possible this might be one key factor we have underestimated? 

                    • Re: Re: STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs
                      C4D Explorer

                      Hello, everyone! I am Ezequiel Tacsir and I have the pleasure of helping you to spur the discussion by providing you with some questions.  It is a great pleasure to be part of this conversation about a very exciting topic. Probably we are all very aware (and sometimes concerned) of scores of reports highlighting the need for more professionals graduated from STEM disciplines as a mean to promote innovation, growth and novel solutions to a variety of social challenges. Despite the overall parity of access and graduation between genders at the higher university level (Women in higher education), when we check the stats (for example: http://www.uis.unesco.org/FactSheets/Documents/sti-women-in-science-en.pdf) for STEM we observe that an important proportion of these graduates are men. So, is it possible to promote higher enrollment/graduation rates by women (i.e., closing the gender gap) and, at the same time, increasing the pool of this highly demanded graduates? Why is the fact that higher wages, string labor demand and prestige are not doing the trick by themselves?


                      Women don't seem to be attracted into these fields or maybe they feel that they don't belong once they enroll. Several reasons and more myths have been put forward to try to account for these facts. As an example, probably you would like to check Table 1 of Women in Science and Technology: What Does the Literature Say? (co-authored with M. Grazzi and R. Castillo). However, the reasons behind this gap are various and complex, including stereotypes, information, incentives to career progression. Maybe you would like to comment further on these reasons, provide examples and evidence supporting your statements...


                      A few questions that we will try to focus on and expect your participation include:


                      1.   What are the barriers that women find when they choose to pursue technical careers?
                      2.       How can we motivate more women to choose STEM careers?
                      3.       Girls need a mirror to reflect themselves and need more models in the engineering sector. Where can we get role models? How can role models become visible? Do you know one of these role models?
                      4.       How can we surface women’s talents? Do you know any network of women working in the energy sector?
                      5.       Do you know any initiative that seeks empowering women in these careers?
                      • Re: STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs
                        925404 C4D Enthusiast

                        Hi Laura  this is a really great point - the wage gap is a very interesting aspect to consider. And I have just been seeing all the recent news articles showing that some of the highest paid jobs right now are in tech and engineering. Thinking through wages would be something interesting we could potentially bring into our study when we look at the new jobs created by energy infrastructure. We have looked at job types - eg service, industry, agriculture but perhaps getting data on wage levels would also be interesting. Great suggestion.

                  • Re: STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs
                    C4D Explorer

                    Hi everyone.  I'm very happy to be joining this discussion on behalf of the Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) initiative, which focuses on women's leadership in clean energy.  This initiative was launched at the first Clean Energy Ministerial in order to address the gender imbalance in the clean energy field.  This imbalance starts because of the disparity my fellow experts have mentioned above in STEM education. 


                    My colleagues have posed questions about why this imbalance exists and asked what can we do about it. The C3E initiative in general tries to provide an answer to that second question through its four pillar framework, which is outlined below: 


                    I. AMBASSADORS: The C3E Ambassadors are a group of about 30 distinguished senior professionals who share an interest in strengthening the recruitment, retention and advancement of highly qualified women in the field. Serving rotating terms, they are role models for the next generation who champion the initiative’s success and raise its visibility.  Ambassadors serve as a nomination review panel for the C3E Awards.


                    II. AWARDS: The C3E Awards recognize mid-career women who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in clean energy and who are emerging leaders in the field. Awards are given by MIT in multiple categories at the annual Symposium, along with cash awards of $8,000. Nominations are accepted in the spring at C3Eawards.org for categories that include leadership in clean energy research, entrepreneurship, law and finance, business, government, non-profits, international work, and education.


                    III. SYMPOSIUM: The C3E Women in Clean Energy Symposium is an annual event, hosted by MIT in collaboration with DOE, as part of their shared commitment to C3E as a Clean Energy Ministerial initiative. C3E Ambassadors and Awardees come together with women working in the sector around the country for a professional conference intended to build a strong and interconnected network of women in clean energy. The third Symposium will be held 16-17 September 2014 with a focus on cities.


                    IV. C3ENET: The C3Enet.org online community forum was launched to enable women around the world who are working to advance clean energy to connect in order to share information, insight, and inspiration.


                    While the C3E network and community is geared more towards a mid-career constituency, it still provides the critical pieces to address barriers to women entering STEM fields.  It provides them with role models, highlights the achievements of those rising in the field, and it attempts to create a road map to career building.  This way, a young woman thinking about entering a STEM education can see how her career might unfold and connect with women who have been successful in building their own careers.


                    A question I would pose to you following the discussion would be:


                    • How can successful women already plugged into professional networks like C3E engage in a meaningful way with young women thinking about entering STEM disciplines?


                    Additionally - I would love to hear any feed back participants have on how to utilize the C3E platform, or improve it.


                    For anyone interested, I've included an introductory video to the C3E initiative.


                    The C3E Women in Clean Energy Symposium - YouTube

                      • Re: STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs
                        925404 C4D Enthusiast

                        Thanks Ann - I really enjoyed watching the video and learning more about the C3E initiative. This is the second time in just one week I have heard about the new job markets that are being opened up through clean energy jobs and how this poses an opportunity to help strike a better balance between women and men accessing those jobs. Your event seems like one of the ways of doing that through establishing networks and connections amongst existing practitioners. However, I still think the training aspects for youth in this field is another key area of engagement to help them gain the skills and awareness for this growing field.

                      • Re: STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs
                        C4D Explorer

                        Thank you for bringing up this issue, Maria Beatriz. As you might imagine, stereotypes have a pervasive (and sometimes) perverse effect. About the issue of early interventions, I feel that toys, games and simple storytelling could be very helpful on attracting girls into STEM. About this issue, let me bring back two small anecdotes. The first one is related to Barbie while the second has to do with Lego.


                        Case 1-Barbie and computer science

                        Scientists are usually portrayed as white men in white coats, and engineers as performing dirty or dull jobs. Probably, one recent example that might contribute to change this for the future generation of women is the recent launch of the Computer Engineer Barbie by Mattel, Inc, a big career change since the teenage fashion model that initiated the  “I can be..." series (Barbie's careers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). In 2010, the toy maker decided to let the public decide what the doll’s next career should be. Mattel gave them a choice of architect, anchorwoman, computer engineer, environmentalist and surgeon. After scores of popular technology Web sites wrote about the issue, female computer engineers began encouraging colleagues to cast their ballot. At the same time, members of different organizations -such as the Society of Women Engineers- start urging their members to cast their votes resulting in a victory for the computer scientist. When Mattel asked for inputs for the design, comments such as ’Make us look cool and hip.’ ’Don’t put us in lab coats.’ ’Don’t make us look like nerds’ flooded the company. The same type of activism by the American Association of University Women had forced in the early 1990s the toy maker to stop their top seller doll to share that “Math class is tough."




                        Case 2: Lego and research personnel

                        Back in early 2012, LEGO revealed a lineup of toys called "LEGO Friends". This was the first set LEGO directed towards girls and focused on shopping, beauty, and decorating. Dissatisfied, LEGO fan Ellen Kooijman (who also goes by Alatariel Elensar), submitted her concepts for minifig sets based on women in science. Similarly, people took to blogs and social media to complain about the stereotypical "Friends" line. LEGO announced last month that it would mass produce a set of three minifigs based on Kooijman's design. Kooijman, a geochemist and fan of LEGO, discovered LEGO CUUSOO (now LEGO Ideas) in 2012, a platform for submitting LEGO concepts. Once an idea received 10,000 votes, it could potentially be produced as an official LEGO product. Kooijman started with creating a minifig based on her profession and eventually created a dozen sets that covered everything from paleontology to courtrooms, but all represented professional women. Kooijman fianlly settled on a set which included a paleontologist, an astronomer and a chemist, and was comparable to the research institute where she worked. LEGO approved, and nearly two years later Kooijman has received the final prototype of the "Research Institute" set, which she revealed and reviewed on her blog (as a scientist, she does her best to be "critical and objective"). The figures look great, and only one wears a "scientist uniform" (in other words, a lab coat). "It was important for me to convey the message that most scientists wear casual clothing," Kooijman says on her blog, "only a few institutes have strict dress codes." This also promotes the idea that careers in science are open to anyone, not just the "nerdy scientist" stereotype. More info on: Bye, Barbie: Success of LEGO's female scientists suggests gender-stereotyped toys on the way out | Metro News and te complete set on: Research Institute  | LEGO Shop





                          • Re: STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs
                            925404 C4D Enthusiast

                            Ezequiel - thanks so much for sharing these insights and this is actually something I follow closely...the "pink aisle" syndrome of toy stores and its affect on perpetuating gender norms. There's been a lot more research out there on this in recent years and a lot of parents trying to help children feel ok on both sides - boys playing with "dolls" and girls playing with "trains".


                            You may have heard of Goldie Blox? This was a company started by Debbie Glasband from Stanford University - who is actually my childhood friend, so I am especially proud of her! But her whole approach is "disrupting the pink aisle" and its gone viral, from a kickstarter campaign to now having a toy to help introduce girls to basic engineering concepts on the shelves of your local Target and Toys R Us. Its been amazing to follow - and they have been learning from feedback, updating their products and really expanding. However, one of the take aways I have from watching this unfold is the absolute HUNGER there is out there to really address this issue. GoldieBlox and the Lego and Barbie examples you gave are really heading in the right direction - but this is a space to watch in the coming years, both in terms of toys and education - to see if there is eventual change or uptake in terms of youth engaged in STEM and breaking down some of the stereotypes.


                            About Us – GoldieBlox


                          • Re: STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs
                            C4D Explorer

                            Check out our latest blog from IDB's private sector regarding this topic:

                            STEM minus Women = Private Sector Problem

                            How gender diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is essential for successful and sustainable business


                            • Re: STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs
                              925404 C4D Enthusiast

                              This has been an interesting exchange - I think with STEM it also often pushes the gender "norms" discussion of traditional male and female employment.


                              There was a recent article in the Huffington Post that tried to capture this through photos. 'No Man's Job': Inside The Lives Of Senegal's Female Mechanics

                              • Re: STEM - Barriers for Women Entering the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Careers and Jobs
                                C4D Explorer

                                I'm Clara Alemann, Social Protection, Health and Gender consultant working at the IDB Social Sector.

                                Following up on Maria Beatriz Orlando, Laura, and Vanessa's comments on gender norms, I would like to emphasize how gender socialization since s early childhood, together with parental and teacher expectations, as well as the different resources and opportunities girls are exposed to, influence their future aspirations, self-confidence and self-efficacy that is necessary to pursue certain career paths such as STEMS. As I commented in a recent IDB-Early Childhood Development post, gender norms are imprinted since early childhood, and thus it is important that policies and programs seek to create environments that provide girls and boys with the opportunities and help them build the skills they need to feel confident and comfortable in different fields, widening the options from which they can later choose to pursue a career. Later on, gender based  discrimination and  inflexible work environments which are not designed to allow women to dedicate time to child rearing makes it very difficult to reconcile professional and family responsibilities, prompting many to have to choose, it's an either or track.

                                So, how do gender norms relate to barriers for women to pursue STEM careers?

                                Another recent IDB-ECD post discussed the alarming gender bias seen in parents’ concerns about their children: parents were primarily concerned about whether their daughters were  pretty enough, and whether their sons were smart enough, as a requirement to succeed in life. These parental and social expectations affect the development of key aspects of personality, behavior and health. Likewise, although in a different way, they limit the development of children’s potential in terms of their life experiences and opportunities. Since very early, girls are taught, through parental expectations and media bombardment (images, clothes and marketing) that women are valued for their looks, their bodies and definitely not that much for their ideas, their boldness to challenge conventions, their leadership skills or their creativity.

                                Gender expectations also affect girls’ predisposition to learn skills that would facilitate their future entrance into the workforce.Ezequiel Tacsir asked about the barriers that women face when they choose to pursue technical careers. Research evidence from a Yale study in the US (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/science/bias-persists-against-women-of-science-a-study-says.html) shows that veiled bias against women exists in academia (even among scientists who are supposed to base their conclusions on empirical evidence!), based on the belief that women are less competent than men, even when they have the same accomplishments and skills. Various studies reviewed in a revealing NY Times piece about why there are still such few women in sciences, identify a persistent devaluing of women's contributions and a lack of encouragement to continue along that career path (by professors, institutional incentives, etc.) as some of the main barriers to success, which, together with the constant difficulties they face, ultimately result in the abandonment of their careers in most cases.

                                The above mentioned post proposes some ideas to help create social, family, and learning environments that strengthen the confidence of each and every child since their early years, that encourage creativity, innovation, and the development of talent in children without stifling their potential.