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Only 22% of women chose STEM-related careers in 2024

Only 22% of women chose STEM-related careers in 2024

The gender gap in higher education is still very noticeable in so-called science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions. According to Por Una Carrera Foundation figures, 77.43% of students enrolled in these areas are men.

In contrast to past decades in Chile, where significant differences in access to higher education by gender were observed, current statistics show that this gap has been greatly reduced and is practically non-existent. However, important differences in career choices remain among students, a phenomenon known as “gender bias in career choice.”

This is particularly evident in STEM careers and fields of study and work that focus on science and technology-related disciplines, including engineering and mathematics. These areas cover a wide range of activities, from scientific research to technology development, design and solution of complex problems in computing, health, energy and the environment.

The numbers are telling. According to Fundación por una Carrera, an organization that since 2008 has guided and accompanied young people on issues of career guidance and in the process of submitting their applications for scholarships and benefits for higher education, 77.43% of students enrolled in STEM careers in 2024 are men. And only. 22.57% women.

For Valentina Gran, Executive Director of the Foundation, “For years there has been a significant disparity in enrollment between men and women in these fields of knowledge. According to official data, only three out of ten students enrolled in STEM careers are women, reflecting a gender gap.” There is a noticeable difference between genders in this educational and practical field, and although there was an improvement last year, the numbers are still bad.”

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Closer viewpoints

Various studies suggest that women tend to orient themselves toward areas such as education, health, or social services, perhaps due to social perceptions associated with female sexuality. On the other hand, men tend to focus more on scientific, mathematical, or technical fields, influenced by social expectations in those fields.

Gran points out that increasing women’s participation in STEM careers “entails many benefits that promote greater gender equality, such as salary competitiveness. Women who choose to study these types of careers earn much higher incomes. In particular It was observed that average salaries increased by 42% during the second year after graduation compared to those who studied professions related to basic education and nursery education.

According to data provided by UN Women, a significant increase in women’s participation in STEM careers will have a direct impact on global GDP. It is estimated that by 2025, global GDP could increase by up to 26% if women participated in countries’ economies in a similar way to men in terms of representation and contribution.

“It is true that there has been an improvement in statistics in 2024. These numbers are not just the result of a spontaneous trend, but rather reflect the result of a concerted effort by various higher education institutions, government authorities and civil society organizations,” says Valentina Gran.

At the end of April, Fundación por una Carrera launched the “Mujeres Estrellas” programme, with the specific aim of encouraging the participation of more women in STEM careers. The project seeks to contribute to reducing gender bias in choosing professions and promoting equal opportunities in the fields of education and work.

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“This programme, funded by the Ministry of Social Development and Family, provides a great opportunity to work with students and teachers from two schools in the SIP network. We seek to motivate students to think about gender biases in career choice, understand existing gaps and encourage them to study STEM careers through feminist references and educational activities. Gran explained that these initiatives could be replicated in other institutions, helping to close the gender gap.