Uneven gender representation, increased financial hardships in Canada’s STEM programs

Published On April 15, 2021 | By Klaudia Kryczka | News, Sci/Tech

Despite Canada’s STEM programs garnering more students since 2013, gender representation and tuition prices are continuing problems for future post-secondary students.

In Canada STEM — which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics — showed, had a 16 per cent increase of enrolments between 2013 and 2018.

However, from a total of 1,655,286 Canadian post-secondary students in the 2018-2019 academic year, only 26.3 per cent of students were enrolled in STEM. And of those, women accounted for 37.3 per cent of enrolments in S.T.E.M programs.

Women outnumbered men in science and science technology enrolments but men dominated the engineering and mathematic programs.

Ever since Statistics Canada started recording gender representation for STEM in the 2013-2014 academic year, female enrollment in STEM only increased 2.2 per cent in a five-year span.

Most women, at 61.9 per cent, primarily enrolled in BHASE programs, which consist of business, humanities, health, arts, social science, education, legal studies, trades, services, natural resources and conservation programs.

In a 2015 report, Solving the Equation by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), states women in engineering programs can be discouraged from enrolling in STEM programs because of the hostile learning environment.

“Female engineering undergraduates frequently encounter gender-based ‘microaggressions,’ [which are] small discriminatory behaviours of mostly nonphysical aggression,” the report stated.

Women can encounter rude behaviour from male students who make it difficult to express their ideas, discouraging gendered statements by professors, and being prejudiced for only being in the program to affirm action policies rather than for achievements and abilities, the report stated.

Additionally, the average cost of STEM tuition rose 15.4 per cent since 2013-2014.

Canada’s average peak tuition for STEM education was in 2018-2019. The science and technologies programs cost a record high of $8,532 a year. Meanwhile, mathematics and computer sciences cost $7,320 and engineering programs were $6,397 a year.

The following academic year saw a decline in Canada’s STEM program tuitions. Science and technology programs declined by 6.8 per cent, by 6.9 per cent for mathematics and computer sciences, and engineering tuition fees dropped by 5.2 per cent.

These results are a collective sum of all tuition fees per STEM program in Canada.

In a way to help encourage post-secondary enrollment and gender representation in expensive STEM programs, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RACF) announced 20 new scholarships on March 31 which will be rewarded to students studying in the STEM fields.

A total of five scholarships will be awarded to women entering or attending post-secondary institutions for STEM.

Criteria for the applications will be posted on the RCAF foundation website by May 15, the RCAF said.

The scholarships will be rewarded by the mid August.

In a livestream announcement of the event, John Wright, Honorary Colonel, Chief of the Defence Staff Office and Chair of the RCAF Foundation Board of Directors, praised the inclusive initiative.

“The Foundation will look to the future to inspire young Canadian to join in creating their own legacy and contribution to the ventures of aviation and aerospace,” he said.

Below is a Piktochart demonstrating the rise in tuition prices for STEM programs and their lack of gender representation.

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