I firmly believe that the gender gap between males and females in STEM-related disciplines is mainly caused by societal upbringing, not by biological differences. At the same time however, I think that our world today is coming around to make math, engineering, and science more accesible and welcoming to females through programs and initiatives, much more than even just ten years ago.

The gender-related differences in occupations can be attributed to the interest generated during development from childhood to adulthood. Interest in an occupation is influenced by factors including the belief in one’s ability to succeed in that occupation, which is heavily influenced by culture.

Gender differences begin from an early age, starting from environmental influences such as the toys they are given to play with. Girls receive toys that encourage domestic skills and appearance, which in a way also encourage general emotions of warmth and compassion, more associated with fields in the humanities. Boys on the other hand, receive toys such as trains or mechanical sets that reinforce the development of engineering interests.

Growing into adolescence, there is research that shows that girls report less self-confidence in their math and science abilities than boys. According to an article on nature.com, gender differences “exist in value that women and men place on doing work that contributes to society, with women more likely than men prefer to work with a clear social purpose.” STEM occupations are generally limited in its immediate societal impact, which may be a deterrent for many females.

At the same time however, according to the article, certain STEM disciplines with clearer social purposes such as biology, biomedical engineering, and environmental engineering have succeeded in attracting higher percentages of women than other fields such as physics or mechanical engineering. This demonstrates that females are intellectually capable of pursuing STEM fields. A point to add is that I find it admirable when females pursue STEM because their society and upbringing naturally discouraged them to do so, or at least made it more difficult to pursue.

Certain programs have been introduced to encourage young females to pursue a career in STEM which I believe is a great start in encouraging females to pursue an occupation in the field. Engineering schools such as MIT, Cal Tech, and Harvey Mudd have been working to balance the ratio between males and females to become even. I think our society recognizes the problem at hand and is working to address the issue in order to move forward from a more polarized place in occupations.