Gender inequality in STEM: How to change this reality?

MCA-Georgia hosted a group of girls with a career in the STEM fields at a breakfast. Photo by G. Kopaleishvili/MCA-Georgia., Sep 26, 2015, Tbilisi, Georgia

Girls are equally as capable as boys in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but they receive less support from society, are less encouraged by parents and teachers and feel consistently less confident of their abilities, which could contribute to why not as many women as men pursue a career in the STEM fields.

A gender gap in STEM was in focus at an all-female breakfast, attended by Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Deputy Vice President Fatima Sumar, Millenium Challenge Account (MCA)-Georgia’s CEO Magda Magradze and a small group of young Georgian female STEM professionals in Tbilisi.

The breakfast, initiated and organised by the MCA-Georgia team, saw the participants talk about the barriers they had to overcome on their path to a STEM career and also about opportunities to increase access and interest in these fields.

"I’m the only girl in the office,” said Ketevan Kochladze, IT and Technical support provider to IDS Borjomi Georgia, the Georgian Branch of IDS Borjomi Beverages Company, adding people at her work place always found it surprising to see a female computer technician.

(From left to right:) Ketevan Kochladze, IT and Technical support provider to IDS Borjomi Georgia, the Georgian Branch of IDS Borjomi Beverages Company; Ninutsa Nanitashvili, Founding Manager of Google Developer Group; and Fatima Sumar, MCC Deputy Vice President. Photo by G. Kopaleishvili/MCA-Georgia.

Within the second multi-million compact for Georgia, MCC is helping the nation to improve its higher education system, with one aim to strengthen the quality of education with an emphasis on STEM disciplines.

"Georgia is a very special place for us,” Sumar said at the breakfast.
"Your government and your people have overcome so many difficulties on their way towards democracy, and there still remained some more to overcome.”

The breakfast was initiated and organised by the MCA-Georgia team. Photo by G. Kopaleishvili/MCA-Georgia.

The female breakfast participants mentioned for some reason women were not as ambitious as males when it came to salary.

Figures reflected the same. According to Georgia’s National Statistics Office data, in Georgia women earn, on average, 39 percent less than men.

What’s more, even though men and women both do not like their current remuneration, less women express dissatisfaction with their job.

Talking about females being less confident than males, breakfast participant Mariam Khunjgurua, who is a software developer for Tbilisi-based United Financial Corporation (UFC), said she was once offered "a very good job at one of the Ministries”, but she turned it down.

"At that time I thought I was not experienced enough to hold that position,” she said.
"But I am sure if I were a boy I would have accepted the offer because boys are more self-confident when it comes to career-related ambitions.”

This difference between girls and boys’ self-confidence could have stemmed from society having different expectations from men and women; according to UNDP Georgia’s 2013 survey on Public Perceptions on Gender Equality in Politics and Business, as many as 74 percent of Georgians believed "A woman is more valued for her family than for her success in a career”. And as many as 52 percent believed "A woman cannot be as successful in a career as a man because of her family and housework”.

The MCA-Georgia breakfast - where women discussed gender equality in STEM, while coffee was being served by men – stressed society's gender biased mentality needed to change and for this, society needed to start talking about this issue openly.