Today more than ever, universities, governments, and industry leaders are doing more things to entice future generations into entering STEM careers, yet the gap between female and male STEM students is still large.
The latest study conducted by Piazza, a social learning and recruiting platform for college students, analyzed data from their users - more than 1 million American and Canadian college and graduate school students, and results show there is a significant gap in confidence between female and male STEM students. The confidence gap gets wider in computer science students.
The Piazza platform allows students to ask and answer questions from each other, teaching assistants or professors in an online environment. The questions and answers can be posted anonymously if one chooses so.
The study showed that women over all ask more questions than men, 26 percent more questions in computer science classes and 23 percent more questions in STEM classes. However, the majority of these questions are asked anonymously, 52 percent in computer science classes and 60 percent in STEM classes.
When it comes to answering questions, women are less likely to participate. The study showed that on average, female computer science students answer 37 percent fewer questions than male students, and female STEM students answer 18 percent fewer questions than male participants. The female participation is for the most part also done anonymously. Thirty five percent of the time, the answers from female computer science students were submitted anonymously, and STEM female students submitted their answers anonymously 39 percent of the time.
The question now is what can we do to encourage more women to enter and be active participants in STEM-related fields careers. Many organizations have started to develop programs to motivate young women into the field while they in elementary schools, but the key is to continue these programs through high school and college years to ensure women remain interested and feel welcome in STEM fields.