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It has often been said that it’s a man’s world. As much I hate to admit it, this does seem to be the case. The majority of high paying professional jobs in America are filled predominantly by men. Men run the businesses; they run the government and, it appears, they run the world. Women, however, are just as capable of excellence in fields that are predominately male. I am a young woman interested in studying mathematics, an area traditionally dominated by males. This does not discourage me. Instead, it gives me more motivation to achieve my goals.
While researching information about actuarial science, my future career, I was appalled to see that in a field with over 15,000 people, less than 2,000 are women. This means that the actuarial field is almost 87% male. I was even more surprised to see that, on average, only 35% of the number of students who graduate from college with a degree in mathematics were female. This trend is even evident in my AP Calculus class, where only a third of the students are female. Now I realize why I receive the looks of disbelief when I tell people that I want to study math. Looking back on past classes, I’ve noticed a disheartening trend. Girls are disappearing from advanced math classes. Girls who used to help me study math in the ninth grade are nowhere to be found when I look around my AP calculus class. In addition, friends ask why I want to study math if I am not interested in being a teacher when I was asked this question, it occurred to me, for the first time, that the average person is not aware of the many professions for which a mathematics background is needed and useful.
Teaching mathematics seems to be the job most women with math degrees pursue. To be honest, even from as early as kindergarten, we are taught that some jobs are for women and others are for men. Jobs in teaching and nursing are stereotypically meant for women, while jobs such as accountant, firefighter and politician are trademark male jobs. Some professions have managed to cross over from being male-dominated to being equally distributed between the genders, such as those in the medical field. It’s now time for the math fields to realize what brilliant minds it may be overlooking and to address some of the barriers facing women.
One barrier that seems to be keeping women out of the math field is job placement. In many cases, people are inclined to hire a man over a woman in most technical and math related fields. Also, since men hold most of the decision-making positions, they will be deciding who is hired. Why would someone want to complete four years of difficult schooling, only to find out she can’t get a job because she is a woman? This is one factor that frightens women away from these professions. One sure-fire way to combat sexism in hiring is for women to make sure they are just as, if not more qualified to receive the job over all others, male or female. A degree from a school such as Georgetown University will not only put me ahead of the competition, but also show that I am not afraid of a challenge. Having graduated from a school of such prestige and excellence, my resume will stand ahead of the pack.
Another important barrier is the fact that many people don’t feel welcome in situations where they are the minority. It is important that we encourage girls to enter the technical and math fields and support the other girls in similar interests. There are various programs, such as Girls Going Places, a program created by Girl Scouts USA, whose mission it is to expose girls to careers where women are needed. These programs supply girls with goals as well as role models to look up to. More support, such as scholarships, is needed to provide girls the chance to study areas and attend colleges that can help them enter male dominated fields. With education, skills and confidence to compete for the nation’s high stature technical positions, they will become successful women.
It’s important to me that other girls see they can be whoever they want to be, and do whatever they want to do in whatever field they choose. It is also important that everyone receive an equal chance no matter his or her gender. How long will we have to wait before we can see an equal number of male and female CFOs? Hopefully, not much longer!
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