According to American Banker and Investopedia, females take up less than 30% of the world’s researchers (Women in Science). Only 9% and 6% of senior positions in venture capital and private equity, respectively (Chandler). Despite recent extensive efforts in diversifying the demographics across all industries, the gender gap in the science and finance sectors is still a persevering issue.
Historically, females have had little exposure to science and finance. It was not until the 1970s when women earned the legal right to apply for credit cards separate from their husbands (Issa). Women were traditionally known for occupying secretarial roles or becoming housewives; the limited opportunities given to women to explore alternative career paths, especially in the sciences and finance, have given leeway to the persistence of stereotypes such as ‘engineers and Wall Street traders are supposed to look like a balding male in a suit’.
According to Keeping Girls in STEM by Carly Berwick, an English teacher at a STEM Magnet high school in New Jersey, female students perform just as well in mathematics and science as male students, if not superior (Berwick). Additionally, female enrolment rates in advanced science and math courses are equal to those of males at the high school level (Berwick). Interestingly, however, the gender gap widens once students advance to the post-secondary level, where a lot fewer female students continue to pursue STEM degrees and participate in STEM evaluations (Berwick).
Berwick mainly attributes the decline in female participation in science at the post-secondary institution level and beyond to the following cause: the stereotype of male superiority in STEM entails self-doubt amongst female students. The harboring of this misconception amongst teaching staff may also lead to harsher grading for female students, which further discourages female students from developing an interest in STEM.
Although no substantial number of reports has established the same correlation in female students’ finance education, it is reasonable to deduce that the persistence of gender stereotypes that promote a rigid narrative of what financial analysts, accountants, and corporate bankers are ‘supposed’ to look like have just as much discouraging power in the finance industry.
Taking down these persistent stereotypes is no easy task; prevailing images have survived far longer than their deconstruction history. However, it has to be done. We must recognize the grain of truth in these stereotypes, at least during their formation period. It is, after all, true that females were not known to become engineers or financial analysts when these occupations were created. It is, however, equally significant, if not more effective, to analyze the circumstantial conditions at which the stereotype was created.
Just because women were not given the opportunity to explore certain career paths in the past does not mean they do not have the capability to uphold these positions if they are. There is a huge difference between being unable to perform a task and not having had the chance to demonstrate one’s ability. Only by establishing this recognition can we expect a larger portion of the population entrusting women with finance- and science-related roles and enter a brand new world, where no walls are defining what we can and cannot do.