WHY CULTURAL CHANGE IS NECESSARY TO BRIDGE THE GENDER GAP IN STEM
Merriam Webster defines cultural change as the ‘modification of society through innovation, invention, discovery, or contact with other societies.’ No society can develop without cultural change because change is constant and creates an enabling environment for growth and development.
Gender inequality has most of its roots in the culture of a people and that in turn retards the growth of a society. Culture contributes to gender stereotyping and expectations, for example, associating math with boys. Unless there is a revolutionary change that will cause different ways of viewing the world, we will keep having societies that thrive on poor cultural perceptions of women.
WHAT CAUSES CULTURAL CHANGE
A society or people cannot change until they change their old ways of doing things by either learning from their mistakes, being innovative or by contact with other people. Here are some causes of cultural change.
- Environmental factors.
- Technological inventions.
- Actions of individuals.
- Direct borrowing from other cultures.
WHAT LIMITS CULTURAL CHANGE
Just as there are many causes of cultural change, there are also lots of things that lead to resistance of such changes. These factors can be either internal or external and they include:
- Religion: This is a key reason that many use to resist cultural change. For instance, if a person’s religious beliefs center on how a woman should behave and that behavior does not include going out of the house, getting an education, having a say in certain matters or puts a structure where women cannot go into some fields like STEM, it will be difficult to change this view as it has deep roots in a person’s belief of how God wants the world to be and resistance becomes natural as such a person will want to protect the word or wishes of God.
- Culture: Culture itself can be a strong ground for resistance as many people’s lives revolve around the acceptable norms of their communities and naturally they wouldn’t want to let go of the only life they have always known.
- Personal beliefs or selfish reasons: Some people do not want change because they can no longer hold onto their privilege. For instance, it’s common to see women push the desire for equality while men afraid of losing their privilege actively resist that change or discredit the movements to achieve it. If lesser women in STEM guarantee more spaces for men, there is a higher chance of men resisting the active movement to create more spaces for women in the field.
- Lack of Awareness: Sometimes, people resist change because they do not understand how such a change can transform their lives for the better. For instance, people may not understand that their society will become better if they encourage the education of women and actively work towards creating spaces for women so that they can help develop a society. This lack of awareness can lead to stagnation in the development of the society.
HOW CULTURAL CHANGE CAN BE ACHIEVED
- Open mindedness: People have to be willing to accept change for it to occur. No society can change if its people choose to remain close minded.
- Encouraging women education and participation in diverse fields: No society can develop without the development of women who make about fifty percent of the population. In order to move forward, no one should be left behind.
- Borrowing from other cultures: No culture has it all and it’s necessary for our survival as humans to learn from each other.
- Innovation: For a place to develop, they have to be willing to try new things and come up with new ideas that will push them forward.
In WISL, we place great emphasis on stimulating social change, promoting gender equality, creating safe spaces and encouraging women to go into more male dominated fields like STEM for the sustained growth and stability of the economy.