Female Students in STEM

Women are underrepresented in STEM fields. What can we do about it? This article by the American Association of University Women suggests encouraging women to take STEM classes in school and empowering the women that choose to pursue STEM interests is the answer to the shortage of women in STEM. I decided to look at data from my school to better understand what is being done to encourage women to pursue STEM.

In the graph above, you can see that over time, male students (represented by the blue bars) take more rigorous courses on average than female students (represented by the red bars). The difference seems small, but increases over time which can make a larger impact on students in college and ultimately in the workforce.

The graph is a depiction of the number of students enrolled in advanced science courses over time. The blue line represents male students and the red line represents female students. In 2014, only 29 women were enrolled in an advanced science course compared to 62 male students. That means that there was less than 1 female student to every 2 male students. In 2016, there were more female students than male students enrolled in advanced science classes and in 2018, the ratio is practically 1:1.

Although currently, the number of female and male students enrolled in advanced science classes is close to equal, the gender makeup of the students enrolled in different kinds of advanced classes greatly varies as shown in the graph. Male students are represented by the blue bars and female students are represented by the red bars. In 2019, there are significantly more women enrolled in advanced biology and significantly more male students enrolled in physics and engineering classes. There is statistically significant evidence that the advanced science course chosen is dependent on gender identity.

Note: Engineering classes are not counted as advanced science courses in the second graph.

The graphs above illustrate the number of male and female students enrolled in the different kinds of advanced science courses (biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering) over the course of the last five years. It’s interesting that female participation in biology and chemistry has increased, while female participation in physics and engineering has dropped recently.

Although this data is focused on the population of one school’s science department, the same phenomenon is happening across the globe. It’s important that we encourage and support women in STEM. The code used to create the graphs shown above is linked below. It’s interactive and I encourage you to explore by clicking the play button.

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  1. April 28, 2019 by Samiha.Datta

    This is so cool, Haley! I love that you chose to look at so many different aspects of data from your school. Kudos for being one of the girls who’s closing the STEM gender gap! 🙂

  2. April 28, 2019 by Annie Ma

    Like Samiha said – this is SO cool. I love how you got data from your school instead of from a traditional website or api! The visuals are clean and easy to understand too. Great job! 🙂

  3. April 29, 2019 by Manav.Shah

    I really loved how you were able to tie your own school into your simulation that is super cool and seems somewhat tedious, but it is obvious this is a topic that you truly care about. Great Job!

  4. April 29, 2019 by Joseph.Wang

    This is an amazing article Haley! I definitely support women in STEM!

  5. April 29, 2019 by Natheir.Abu-Dahab

    I find it really important that both genders get to participate equally in STEM. The fact that this gap is closing is definitely a good thing. Thanks for sharing this really important data,

  6. April 29, 2019 by Emma.Sheldon

    Haley, your project is very important and I really enjoyed it. It was interesting to read in the article how even implicit bias at an unconscious level can effect female confidence and performance in their STEM pursuits. It reminded me of something I read about a while ago––apparently studies show that if females are forced to fill in a bubble indicating their gender before a standardized test, they will do worse on math and science sections. That small action of marking their gender unconsciously triggers gender-based stereotypes in their head which impede their confidence and performance. Your graphs were effective too. I wonder why Physics has the greatest disparity between men and women.

  7. April 29, 2019 by Georgia.Gallagher

    I love all your data charts! I know how time consuming the coding can be and I really admire how many different graphs you made, and how neat they are! Your topic is super important and I love seeing another girl making an effort to close the gap! This was a super cool idea and great execution- nice job!

  8. April 30, 2019 by Ava.Glazier

    Hey! This is so cool. I loved how you used and analyzed the data (it was especially to see how drastic these numbers are at our school). It’s really important to get more women involved in STEM and I am glad that you are questioning why we are not. I’m also wondering why physics might have such a large gap between male and female enrollment.

  9. April 30, 2019 by Nikhil Goel

    This was very interesting! It’s a real issue that I’ve come to see a lot too. Out of interest, how did you determine rigor in your first graph?

    • May 02, 2019 by Haley.Wixom

      I based course rigor based on prerequisites and personal knowledge of the courses. Afterward, I met with the department head to get her perspective.

  10. May 01, 2019 by Siddhanth Reddy

    This is a really interesting article! Definitely, important to get more women participation in STEM

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