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Women in STEM: How STEM Fields Benefit and Change from Female Influence

I shared in a previous post some stats and facts about women in STEM studies and the workforce. Having female influence in STEM fields helps to achieve a more balanced state in terms of gender but it is not solely a benefit to the female gender. Attracting and retaining women in the fields that remain dominated by men today is important for the advancement of those fields too.


Possibly more than any other area, the STEM fields will greatly benefit from a more balanced male-to-female ratio. Women bring a different perspective to the workplace and can help breed creativity in scientific fields.


Many jobs within the STEM fields focus on designing products and materials that aim to advance our experiences and help us live safer lives. It is critical to have a strong female presence to ensure that those products and materials are developed by both genders. Without direct input from women, products and materials could be designed that do not take into account needs that are specific to women. There are a couple of glaring examples I will share that illustrate this point.


When voice-recognition was first becoming popular, the systems were calibrated to only recognize male voices because only males were designing the products. That obviously caused a problem when any woman tried to use the products.


When engineers designed the first automobile air bags, they fit the body dimensions of the team, which was comprised primarily of adult males. When the air bags deployed in an accident, those with smaller body sizes, such as children and the majority of women, were at risk. Including capable female engineers on the design team would have helped avoid this mistake.


Building creative teams out of people who have different mind-sets, points of view, and imaginations will lead to innovation, creative thinking, and ultimately products that better meet the needs of a diverse population of men and women alike.


As a recent article in Tech Crunch pointed out, women control 80% of consumer spending and drive the majority of user activity of social networks. With spending shifting more and more to online retailers, it makes sense for new apps and online retail sites to employ females in the design process because they can speak firsthand to how different design features will affect the way a woman spends money.


This is especially important for the entrepreneurs out there who will need each employee to count since they can’t afford to hire many. Why waste stretched budgets on focus groups and surveys implemented by your male designer when you could just hire a female designer to begin with?


What are your thoughts on how women can influence and benefit STEM fields? Have you seen any examples of the gender gap causing design problems in your studies or career? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Karen Purcell

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