Women in STEM: How does St. Luke’s compare?

Michael Pizzani '19

How often are you sitting in math class, and your teacher references a female mathematician? What about a scientist? Engineer? Unfortunately, history lacks prominent females in STEM. However, the traditionally male-dominated field is becoming increasingly populated by women.

In the United States, women make up half of the total college-educated workforce, but hold only 29% of jobs in the science and engineering fields. At a collegiate level, women earn more degrees than men overall; however, they only make up 35% of the population with degrees in STEM fields. There seems to be an invisible force pushing women out of STEM. Is St. Luke’s contributing to that?

According to Mr. Mitchell, who runs the SLS designLab department, classes are currently about 35% female, but that number is growing. The reason for this disproportion may be due to stereotypes that perpetuate the idea that girls should study humanities and boys STEM.

However, with the development of designLab courses in the middle school, Mr. Mitchell is hoping that students who may not identify as “makers” can use the tools provided to redefine what making is and what it can be. As kids are able to further form their interests, Mr. Mitchell is hopeful the designLab demographics will better represent the student body.

This year, specifically in the senior class, girls have nearly taken over STEM. The STEM scholars program contains almost entirely girls, as do some of the highest level STEM classes. Honors Organic Chemistry is comprised of six girls, AP Physics four girls and one boy, and Honors Multivariable Calculus three girls. More advanced computer science classes are also girl-heavy.

Among SLS students, there seems to be a general consensus that the workforce demographics may make young girls feel out of place while pursuing STEM, but that St. Luke’s fosters an encouraging environment that allows each student to pursue what they want.

“St. Luke’s encourages us to do whatever we want to do,” notes Hannah Mathew ’19, an advanced STEM student.

With the proportion of girls in designLab classes on the rise and plenty of STEM-involved female seniors for young middle schoolers to look up to, there is a clear upward trend at St. Luke’s, which will hopefully be later reflected in the workforce.

This article was written with the help of the following sources:

The National Girls Collaborative Project

The Brookings Institution