The STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—industries are at the forefront of the gender gap in the 21st century. As the world becomes increasingly digitized, the need for workers in STEM-related industries is exploding. Fuelling this explosion are the advances in Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality, the proliferation of Big Data, and the need to design for a more sustainable future. In the US alone, there will be a predicted 8.65 million jobs in these sectors in 2018, according to http://STEMconnector.org. Such numbers should be cause for excitement for women in this space; however, the same report highlights the problematic fact that male students are three times more likely to study a STEM-based course at university.
If this apathy for STEM subjects was truly founded on gender-based disinterest, it would shed a sad reality on gender expectations, but statistically speaking this simply isn’t the root problem. A study by the National Girls Collaborative Project found that throughout high school the number of girls applying to advanced science programs was around 22%, as opposed to 18% of boys studying at these higher levels. The study also found that there was no discernable difference between the genders regarding academic results in mathematics or science. But when it comes to choosing an undergraduate program, female students are significantly less likely to take a STEM-based course. In fact, according to the National Household Survey, women accounted for 39% of university graduates aged 25 to 34 with a STEM degree, compared with 66% of university graduates in non-STEM programs.
However, The Spark of Hope Foundation’s students are part of the global drive to narrow the gender gap in STEM fields. Chahd Mazyan, a Palestinian medical student studying in Lebanon, is one such example of someone driving change. Her aim to become a medical doctor comes from her deep-rooted empathy and a desire to improve the lives of people through her work. Having completed an undergraduate degree in biology, her path to gaining an MD is a clear sign to women and young girls all over the world that their potential should never be limited.