By Rosalind C. Barnett and Caryl Rivers
Women and girls weren’t doing very well in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine) before the Covid 19 pandemic. Despite accounting for over half of the college-educated workforce, women in the United States made up only 29% of those employed in science and engineering occupations in 2017. Further, a 2018 report from Microsoft found that girls and young women were still less likely than boys to imagine or pursue careers in STEMM.
But now comes the really bad news. A new National Academies of Sciences study finds that the pandemic may “roll back” women’s gains in STEMM. Researchers concluded that although women had been making some gains in the past few years, “these trends have been hindered as difficulties with remote work and increased caregiving responsibilities have piled up during the pandemic.” One associate professor quoted in the report said, “I am on the verge of a breakdown. I have three children doing virtual school full time who need my attention throughout the day. . . . I try to wake up before them and work after they sleep, but this is hard given they wake up at 7am for school and don’t go to bed early.”
Meanwhile, the group Girls Who Code reports that by 2027, this ongoing decline will mean that only 24 percent of girls will remain in computer fields. Additionally, a report in the Journal Nature finds that, “Early analyses suggest that female academics are posting fewer preprints and starting fewer research projects than their male peers.”
This all comes in the light of an ongoing media storyline over many years that “Science” finds great differences between men and women, especially in the areas of math and science. This myth is like a chimera: lop off one head and two more pop up to replace it. Columnist George Will wrote, “There is a vast and growing scientific literature on possible gender differences in cognition. Only hysterics denounce interest in these possible differences.”