Women are underrepresented in STEM fields. It’s a well-documented fact that fewer collegiate women seek and earn degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related programs than their male classmates. Why does this gap exist?
Some reports suggest that women may feel intimidated by being the minority in science classrooms or face work-life balance hurdles getting an advanced degree while raising a family. U.S. Census data from February 2016 shows that women make up 14% of engineers, around 45% of mathematicians and statisticians and 47% of life scientists. But, the number of women in STEM is slowly trending upwards. Data shows that the STEM workforce was comprised of 26% women in 2011, compared to 23% in 1990.
There are several indicators that the number of women in STEM is on the rise, along with programs designed to encourage women to join the field. Getting young women into STEM may start as early as grade school and high school, but college proves to be the time where their academic interest turns into a major which could turn into a job.
Using Forbe’s 2016 Best Value colleges ranking, Forbes determined which schools are helping launch women into STEM professions. To do this, they took a look at the Best Value colleges, sorted by schools specializing in STEM, and found the rate of attendance by women. This turned up 13 diverse institutions with heavy female representation.
University of California, Davis, came in at #1 on this list of best value colleges for women in STEM, with 56% female enrollment and 29% of the student body specializing in STEM (as determined by College Scorecard data) Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, ranked second with 51% female enrollment and 30% are registered in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math subjects followed by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, in the third position.
Other standouts on Forbe’s list include Washington University in St. Louis (MO), Duke University (NC) and Princeton University (NJ), which round out the top five. Other schools on the list show a wide geographic diversity, like Rice University in Texas,Clemson University in South Carolina and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in Michigan.
So, what’s the secret to helping women succeed? Offering support systems could be key. UC Davis is home to CAMPOS, or the Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives on Science, which offers aid, including mentoring and career guidance, to women and Latina women in STEM. The center is part of a larger UC Davis ADVANCE initiative, a National Science Foundation program aiming to increase participation for women pursuing STEM careers. ADVANCE also strives to promote diversity within school leadership and faculty, specifically professors in STEM fields.
Cornell offers the EWISE (Empowering Women in Science & Engineering) Symposium, which brings together students, faculty, postdocs and more to learn from notable professionals in the field during workshops and panel discussions. It also promotes an annual Women in STEM Policy seminar which convene women in science and health fields to discuss topics like salary negotiation and government jobs in the field.
Right now, there is a prevalent national focus on supporting women in science, technology, engineering and math. Combined, such nationwide and campus-specific programs can offer young women a chance to succeed after graduation.
Read more on Forbes.com.