Governments all over the world are incentivizing people, especially women, to study STEM careers. But are there enough jobs and opportunities for these new students?
Science, technology, engineering, and math careers, widely known as STEM, have an underrepresentation of women. According to AAUW, women only make up 28% of the workforce, with the gaps being wider in the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs in the industry. The gap exists in schools, as girls are often treated as the least talented in STEM classes, discouraging them from keeping this track after graduation. Even careers where the gap is not as wide, like chemistry, are perceived as male-type occupations. Because of that, girls who choose this path usually face social sanctions and are mistreated due to the belief that they are not good enough to study these subjects.
But incentivizing girls to study STEM careers is not enough. So far, public policy is focused on schools and showing girls that they are more than capable of succeeding in these fields. But there is a problem with assuring jobs after graduation, especially for the women who focus on research. There are not enough incentives to study for a master’s or doctorate in STEM in countries like Colombia, as highly qualified people are usually not hired by enterprises. Because of that, these people end up leaving to work in other countries or have to stay in academia, limiting their career goals. Getting people into STEM degrees also comes with making sure that they can make a living out of their chosen path.
Furthermore, with the anti-scientific propaganda that has been spreading all over the world, it has become more difficult to show relevant discoveries. Just weeks ago, scientists were arrested in the US for protesting because they felt that the government was not listening to their research on global warming. Without proper funding and public policy to use the results, their work is becoming the warning signal that we as a society decided to ignore.
The pandemic proves that scientists can save us when resources are well-focused on solving a problem. We now have at least four vaccines in time-record creation that decreased the number of people dying because of COVID-19. But this advance was not only successful for this illness, as research helped causes like HIV vaccines, which have been developing for decades. Talent and knowledge exist already to fight thousands of human problems. Still, we are not listening or supporting STEM professionals to provide solutions unless we see our immediate lives wholly affected. The probability of a pandemic already existed, we had been warned about the possibility for years, but we did not prepare to avoid the situation we had to face for the last two years.
Governments cannot focus only on making sure more people, especially women, study STEM-related careers. If there are not enough places where scientists can work, and the country does not have a proper environment to enhance its knowledge, it will waste resources and talent. STEM might be the best-paid field right now, but it does not mean there will be enough space for everyone that graduated from these careers. Incentives should also exist when it comes to hiring the best-qualified people, ensuring that their knowledge will contribute to improving human life.