More women earning STEM degrees in Utah, still less than US average

Girls learn about technology at Girls Go Digital, 2018, location not specified | Photo courtesy of Girls Go Digital, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — More women in the Utah are earning STEM-related degrees, but experts say completion rates are still behind the national average.

The Utah Women & Leadership Project released a Utah Women in STEM Education study early this month showing an additional 467 women graduated with science, technology, engineering and math degrees from 2012 to 2017, the Deseret News reported.

That 1% increase could be higher, but multiple factors, including gender imbalance and stereotypes, have attributed to women switching out of the discipline more frequently than men, officials said.

The study revealed an overall lack of growth of women in STEM education following various efforts to increase technological and scientific opportunities, the department said.

“We really didn’t see a big movement in the percentages of women completing the degrees,” researcher Cheryl Hanewicz said.

Women who have completed STEM degrees have also switched to non-STEM-related fields following education more frequently, she said.

Girls learn about technology at Girls Go Digital, 2018, location not specified | Photo courtesy of Girls Go Digital, St. George News

Women in Utah make up 44% of the workforce in the state, and there are a “particularly low” number of women who continue on to work in STEM industries, officials said.

In comparison, there are 47% of women in the workforce nationwide and 28% are in the tech workforce, the Deseret News reported.

Having more women in STEM positions can lead to further recruitment of women in the workforce and create a more welcoming work culture for them, department director Susan Madsen said.

“For many women, their true passion could be science, technology, engineering and math,” she said, “and if they don’t get a chance to try it out and think about it, then they may lose their real passion.”

Young women who are introduced to women in STEM careers can increase their chances of engaging in a STEM curriculum by more than 60%, researchers said.

At an even younger age, STEM clubs catering to girls in grades five through eight can increase their chances by 30%, researchers said.

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