How the Economy Influences Women to Look into STEM Jobs

Photo from uschamberfoundation.org

Photo from uschamberfoundation.org

“One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science, and engineering. We’ve got half the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent…not being encouraged the way they need to,” President Barack Obama stated about women in STEM fields.

We agree with President Obama that women should be more exposed to STEM. And this July, new research proves the female population in STEM is currently growing.

And why is that? Because of the economy. The recession has had the greatest influence on women looking into STEM majors in college and career paths down the line.

Erica Blom, Brian C. Cadena, and Benjamin J. Keys released a new study last month in an essay called “Investments over the Business Cycle: Insights from College Major Choice.” In this study, results showed that college students will select majors that lead to higher-paying careers, in this case more STEM related fields. This suggests that “students consider college as an ‘investment’ more than a ‘consumption’ when times are bad.” The study itself calls for better information about STEM career prospects and programs designed to encourage women to view college in this manner.

The results also suggest “students are willing to exert more effort during school by selecting more challenging majors during recessions.”

The new research notes that female college students react to the recession and economy pressures more so than males. Women are turning away from “female-dominated majors like sociology and education,” as well as liberal arts, and increasing the female population in STEM (like finance, biology, etc.) majors.

“It is simply a fact that people taking a math-intensive course of study end up getting paid more down the line,” said Keys in TIME. He noted that the study was not trying to show that STEM jobs are better than liberal arts, and that it did not assess what majors make people the happiest or what careers are best for society.

The study also does not state why females react to economic pressure when it comes to choosing their majors more so than males. However outside research has proven before that women generally also pursue higher education due to advances economically more so than men.

As women find themselves choosing more STEM majors because of the recession, nursing, accounting, and tech fields are also showing a rise in female population.

Interestingly, the study also found that during a recession students stray from majors that require graduate school or higher education. “These estimates suggest that recessions lead to more students choosing majors that are effectively ‘terminal,’ i.e. that lead to careers without additional schooling…Students are more likely to select higher-paying jobs with better long-term employment rates and a higher likelihood of working in a related field relatively soon after graduation.”

As the economy encourages women towards fields where women likely face the most barriers, we celebrate the strength in the rising numbers. Studies like these prove that the landscape of STEM fields is evolving, and soon the perception of the field will hopefully become less gender-biased. As Nichelle Nichols, former NASA Ambassador and actress stated, “science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s. It’s about where we are and where we’re going.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: AMY VAUGHN9d54e19e059511e2a62d1231380fd04a_7

As a Montclair State University graduate with a BA in English, my first love is writing, specifically nonfiction and short stories. International human rights and women’s rights are also strong passions of mine. I hope to someday be able to call myself Chief Editor, human rights advocate, and jewelry designer. I can’t live without Mad Men (er, Netflix), soy chai lattes, or my adorable Wheaten terrier, Pippin. 

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