There are signs indicating women, especially within immigrant populations, are finding their voice in STEM. Here, Beau Peters reports on the rise of immigrant women in STEM.
The concept of immigration is nearly as old as society itself: for as long as there have been civilizations who battled over land, various bodies of water, and other natural resources, displaced people and families have traveled elsewhere to seek new opportunities.
In modern times, immigration remains a common occurrence around the globe. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, international immigrants make up an estimated 3.5% of the total global population, equal to more than 272 million people. Host countries with the largest number of international migrants include the United States, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.
No matter their global location, however, today’s immigrants are highly skilled, and many have strong backgrounds in the STEM fields. What’s more, immigrant women are entering STEM in increasing numbers. Knowledge Without Borders reports that, as of 2010, nearly 4.2 million female immigrants were employed within highly skilled professions, especially within STEM.
Fostering diversity is more important than ever in 2021, yet gender stereotypes and bias still exist in STEM, serving to discourage young women from pursuing STEM careers. The good news is that, while women’s contributions to STEM continue to fly under the radar, the field has become increasingly more diverse. Let’s explore the crucial importance of including, recognizing, and raising immigrant women’s voices, in STEM and beyond.
Immigration Trends Around the World
As previously mentioned, there are hundreds of millions of immigrants scattered around the world. Some are refugees from war-torn countries seeking asylum, while others made a conscious decision to immigrate, both in the hopes of increased prosperity, happiness, and safety.
But no matter their story, immigrants typically must work hard in order to get ahead in a foreign nation with unfamiliar customs. For this reason, an entrepreneurial spirit can be a vital trait for immigrants, no matter the business venture. By starting a business in their new neighborhood, immigrants have the opportunity for cultural immersion while also making a living and investing in the future.
It’s important to note that immigrant-owned businesses span well beyond the stereotypical corner grocery stores and nail salons. Among the 500 richest companies in the U.S., in fact, 40% have immigrant-born founders at the helm. Immigrant entrepreneurs are especially drawn to the business and tech industries, and are a crucial part of continued innovation in STEM.
The Expansive Reach of STEM
Technically speaking, STEM encompasses the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. A wide range of industries, from biology to computer science, fly under the STEM banner, and they have been overwhelmingly dominated by white males across much of modern history.
The good news in 2021 is that times are rapidly changing, and women are entering STEM in record numbers. Yet it’s important to note that the emerging trend of women in STEM is highly dependent on one’s birth country. For example, women in Iran make up a full 70% of STEM graduates at the university level, a much higher figure than seen in the U.S.
On a business level, fostering workplace diversity can help boost profits and propel a company further. Immigrant women can also provide a unique perspective based on their personal experiences, one that varies significantly from that of the traditional white male STEM worker.
Diversity and STEM into the Future
For starters, female employees may be able to help identify problematic workplace policies and taboos, such as those involving women’s health issues. This type of inclusion is critical in our increasingly diverse world, where customers are increasingly willing to support those brands and companies with a strong value system.
Diversity is so important to consumers that the financial future of a company may even depend on it. Among various industries, companies with diverse management teams have been found to earn more revenue from innovative ideas than less diverse companies. And in regards to women in particular, “companies with greater gender diversity among executive teams generated more profitability and value creation than companies with fewer women in executive positions,” reports DeVry University.
For all of the benefits of workplace diversity, however, the job starts with the globe’s youngest citizens. If women aren’t exposed to STEM fields at a young age, they’re not likely to choose a related degree or career path, and the world will be smaller for it.
There are a number of factors that can influence cultural traditions such as gender bias and the idea that particular jobs are best suited for men or women. Where STEM is concerned, the achievements of female scientists, mathematicians, computer programmers, and more have long been overlooked. It’s time to rectify that oversight, and further embrace diversity in STEM.
Fortunately, there are numerous signs indicating that women, especially within immigrant populations, are finally starting to find their voice in STEM. The immigrant experience can only serve to foster workplace diversity and help build a more inclusive world, while also inspiring technological innovation in every industry, from the classroom to the tech company office.