Exploring the Gender Gap in STEM Fields: Entomology Edition 

For many of us, the subjects we’re expected to excel in have been ingrained since our elementary school days. Gender stereotypes have often painted boys as STEM enthusiasts and girls as creative word-wielders. While those stereotypes have changed in recent years, it’s evident that gender gaps in STEM careers still exist, including in the field of entomology. 

Despite the noteworthy shift of 40% of doctoral degrees in entomology now being awarded to women, a recent study reveals that men still outnumber women in university and federal entomology careers by about 66%

Why does this gender gap persist in entomology, and what steps can we take to bridge it? Join us as we explore the potential causes behind this imbalance and discuss strategies to level the entomological playing field, ensuring everyone has a seat at the table. 

Why Is There a Gender Gap in Entomology? 

The gender gap in entomology is a complex issue that consists of multiple contributing factors, including some of the aspects we discuss below. 

Societal and Gender Norms 

Entomology is just one of many subjects within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, which have a predominantly male history. While it’s true that societal and gender norms are evolving, women are still about four times more likely to have an animal phobia (including insects) than men. So, although many women today are more capable of squashing the occasional bothersome cockroach than their female predecessors, some outdated stereotypes still discourage women from pursuing STEM careers, including those in entomology. 

Despite this (and other) changes in gender norms, some outdated stereotypes still discourage females from pursuing STEM careers, entomology included. Consequently, while some women may be interested in a career in pest management or beekeeping, they may opt for another career path due to lingering doubts about societal expectations and potential gender bias within these fields. 

Lack of Representation 

While we’ve seen more women joining entomology in recent years, the fact that there are fewer women in top roles may discourage others from getting into the field. For example, let’s take government entomologist positions. In 2015, out of 503 federal government-employed entomologists, 75% were men. The gender gap became even more noticeable in higher-ranking positions. If women filled more positions in the industry, it might encourage other women to also pursue their dreams of entering and dominating the field. 

Implicit Bias 

Implicit biases are a fickle aspect of human nature, as they refer to the decisions that individuals make subconsciously. Often, they’re linked back to societal norms and lead to accidental discrimination or unequal treatment based on gender, race, ethnicity or other characteristics. 

There are several ways implicit bias can negatively impact women’s ability to be hired or promoted in the field of entomology. For instance, hiring managers may unconsciously favor male candidates or have the tendency to over or underestimate a candidate’s qualifications based on their gender. 

4 Ways to Address and Decrease the Gender Gap 

The first step to reducing the gender gap in entomology is acknowledging that it exists. Then, with the help of individuals, institutions and the scientific community at large, we can incorporate some of the following strategies to promote gender equity. 

#1 Promote Inclusivity 

There are many ways to provide an inclusive environment in entomology. From ensuring that women are represented in leadership positions to highlighting the achievements and contributions of female entomologists with recognition and award programs, it’s essential to foster an inclusive environment where all genders feel welcome at the table. 

#2 Encourage STEM Courses for All Children 

We can teach an entire generation that it’s perfectly acceptable for female students to pursue STEM subjects from an early age. With outreach programs and educational initiatives, we can begin breaking the current mold and encourage women in STEM fields by promoting science-based courses to all who show interest in those subjects, including entomology. 

#3 Provide Equal Pay and Benefits 

Recent research indicates that female entomologists in federal government positions earn significantly less than their male counterparts. Closing the wage gap and ensuring that women with equal qualifications and experience receive equitable pay and benefits is a vital measure in reducing gender disparities within the field. 

#4 Offer a Sustainable Work-Life-Balance 

Providing supportive and flexible work arrangements can go a long way toward enticing more women to pursue a career in entomology. Family-friendly policies such as paid parental leave, flexible work hours and childcare assistance are beneficial for all, but they can be especially helpful for women, who are often responsible for the majority of caregiving duties. 

Be the Person You Want to Be (With the Career You Deserve) at UF 

At the University of Florida, we encourage you to pursue your dreams and build a career that ignites your passion and makes the world a better place. If you’re passionate about entomology, we offer a range of online programs designed to quench your thirst for knowledge and equip you with the skills needed to embark on a career in the field. Whether you’re looking to start your entomology journey, take your existing skillset to the next level or advance your career, we have options to suit your needs. 

For those interested in earning a graduate degree, consider our online Master of Science in Entomology and Nematology. It’s a 30-credit-hour program that’s entirely online, so you can complete coursework when it’s convenient for you. And because we understand that every individual has their own passions within the field, we offer four distinct specializations to choose from, including: 

  • Medical Entomology 
  • Landscape Pest Management 
  • Urban Pest Management 
  • Beekeeping 

Wherever your interests lie, the University of Florida is here to help you see them through to help you build the career you’ve always dreamed of. Take the first step and apply today

Sources: 
https://academic.oup.com/aesa/article/111/6/355/5076182?login=false 
https://academic.oup.com/view-large/123514823

Learn More About the Program

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