A key goal in STEM education is “broadening opportunities and enabling the participation of all citizens–women and men, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities,” according to the National Science Foundation. Similarly, President Obama’s recently launched “Educate to Innovate” campaign cites, “expand STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and girls” as one of its three goals.
Why is gender diversity in STEM important? First, why do YOU think it’s important?, see our quick poll below with a $600 raffle prize (registration for a WomenTech Training). I’d love your opinion.
Here’s why Donna Milgram thinks gender diversity in STEM is important.
The absence of women from STEM education and careers affects more than the women; it is a missed opportunity for those fields. Women bring a different perspective that shapes and influences STEM disciplines. Research shows that women — as a group — have a greater interest than males in how technology will be applied, in particular to help others, and women naturally have a greater understanding of what is important to and appeals to women.
Here are just two examples of how women in STEM enhance the field from a substantive perspective.
- Dr. Bernadine Healy, the first woman to direct the National Institutes of Health (NIH), established a policy whereby the NIH would only fund clinical trials that included both men and women when the condition being studied affected both genders. Prior to this requirement, many NIH clinical trials did not include women, and subsequently research recommendations did not take into account the differing biology of women and men, and in some cases made recommendations harmful to women.
- The Zimmer® Gender Solutions™ Knee, which was originally conceived of by a woman engineer. Nearly two-thirds of knee replacements in the U.S. are done on women; however, until the Gender Knee was developed the model for a knee implant was a male knee, which often did not fit the shape and size of women’s anatomy. The Gender Knee is specifically designed to fit the average woman and is a much more successful implant as a result.
Having more women in the picture will not only help women themselves — it will also help society benefit from their expertise — whether it’s ensuring women are included in clinical trials or developing a prosthetic knee that works better for women. We are all enriched when women fully contribute to the advancement of science and technology.