Breaking Stereotypes: The Key to Getting More Women Involved in STEAM Careers

    Broadening horizons is possible, if girls are empowered so that they know that their professional future is chosen by them

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    In the 21st century, have you ever wondered if machismo and stereotypes still exist in the world of work? UNESCO data indicates that only 29.3% of researchers in the world are women.

    In Costa Rica, the Conare Labor Observatory indicates that 13% of Mechatronics professionals are women; they also represent 16.9% of the specialists in Mechanical Engineering, 119.7% in Electrical Engineering, 14.9% in Electronics and 26.2% in Chemical Engineering. In addition to these data that provide the context of the national reality, the Federated College of Engineers and Architects (CFIA) also confirms the low presence of women in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), since 76.35% of its members are men.

    Unfortunately, conventional stereotypes affect the performance of many women

    Machismo and stereotypes are still present in the performance of women, which affects the freedom to work and study in what is really desired. Engineer Sandra Cauffman experienced this problem, just when she wanted to study Mechanical Engineering and was rejected and directed towards another engineering careerthat she did not want to study. Despite these kinds of obstacles, Cauffman, like mechanical engineer Melania Guerra, managed to show that women can perform in any area.

    Guerra is today the strategic and scientific director of Planet and Cauffman has a 32-year trajectory working for NASA. Both of them were partners when the mechanical engineer worked for NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “The first thing she had to do was overcome that internal voice that sabotaged her and made her doubt her abilities. She had to strengthen her self-esteem and confidence to be able to take on the challenges and opportunities that were presented, because typically, when she was in front of her colleagues, she doubted a lot if she could achieve it”, Guerra said about Cauffman.

    How to change prejudices

    For the rector of the Fidélitas University, Emilia Gazel, these prejudices, norms, and social filters have kept women from STEAM careers. Within the framework of the International Day of Girls and Women in Science, celebrated on February 11th, this institution shared a series of activities that can be carried out to change current prejudices:

    • Overthrow sexism and inequality in education and work.

    • Allow women to play with the toys they want without gender limitations.

    • Empower girls so that they know that their professional future is chosen by them.

    • Educate adults so that they eliminate the barriers that are imposed when choosing a career.

    • Recognize women as social, political, economic, scientific, artistic, and sports leaders.

    • Eradicate gender violence in all areas.

    “Unfortunately, illusions from within the home often kill them, so an intense campaign should be carried out at the national level to break down stereotypes in homes, especially in rural areas, where there is a lot of machismo, violence, discrimination and mistreatment”, considers Arlette Zúñiga, professor of the Systems Engineering career at Fidélitas University.

    Resonance Costa Rica
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