The digital revolution is causing unimaginable economic and social developments. Although it is difficult to anticipate its impact on the future of employment, there is consensus on the fact that the professions most in demand in the future will be related to new digital skills and abilities.
However, the participation of girls / women in the disciplines that will allow them to perform well in a digital world (science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known by the acronym, English STEM), is much lower than that of children /mens. The White Paper of Women in the Technological Scope, presented by the Minister of Economy and Business, Nadia Calviño, shows an overview of the situation in Spain. It is worrying to see that in most STEM careers, the gaps continue to be negative and of great magnitude, and have only been closed in mathematics and biotechnology.
Now that the labor market is moving towards convergence between women and men, the digital divide is especially serious, since the greater relevance of technological jobs can halt this advance. 50% of the population with less technological training and digital tools is a loss of talent and employment that we can not afford, especially in the process of aging. It is necessary that girls / women are handled safely in the world of technology because digitization is going to be a differential point in any of the disciplines in which they want to develop, and that the reduction of digital gaps becomes a economic policy objective of the highest order.
This implies understanding the origins of gender gaps in educational fields. The choice of field can be explained by the skills -nature- or by the context, which does not favor the presence of women in the scientific disciplines -entorno-. The explanation based on "nature" is based on the different abilities of men and women. The explanation based on the "environment" focuses on the role of culture and the gender stereotypes that make up the ecosystem in which students grow.
Since we can not act on nature, we must focus on the environment. There is a lot of academic evidence that shows how gender stereotypes affect girls' performance in mathematics. When teachers believe that girls are not as good as children in mathematics, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, affecting their preferences and inducing girls to lose self-confidence. Girls, whose parents have a positive attitude towards mathematics, also achieve better results in mathematics. In addition, students whose mothers or fathers work in STEM sectors are more likely to complete a degree and have a job in a STEM field. Finally, those countries where gender biases are more deeply rooted are associated with greater gaps in mathematics.
Change the attitude of teachers and parents against biases, but also look for references that end with such stereotypes in all areas. Special Agent Scully, from the series File X, was a model for many girls and teenagers who grew up watching it, giving rise to what has been called the Scully effect. 25 years after the premiere, 63% of the women surveyed who work in STEM, recognize that agent Scully encouraged them to choose a STEM career. In companies, and particularly in technology companies, it is urgent to break glass ceilings and give visibility to women in management positions.
Much remains to be done and must be done quickly because gender stereotypes are internalized at a very early age – around 7 years old. Policies, initiatives in schools, families and companies and references. All with the same goal of getting girls interested in science and mathematics and encourage them to study STEM careers.
José Ignacio Conde-Ruiz He is a FEDEA researcher and professor at the Complutense University