Despite the popularity of the Real Housewives series, the days of women spending the day cooking and cleaning are over. Today women make up almost half the overall workforce in the United States. However, according to the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey, women comprise only 24 percent of workers in STEM fields. What is stopping women from pursuing STEM careers in these areas?

This disproportionality can come from many factors. Women have fewer role models in these areas and the careers available are less accommodating to having a family than other fields. Now is the time to change that! Women are just as capable as men to have these jobs and there are many benefits that can come from more diversity. Even President Barack Obama has spoken about this issue, saying, “One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science, and engineering

[Tweet “We’ve got half of the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent… that is not being encouraged.””]

Benefits of being in STEM field are plentiful. According to Forbes, recent college grads typically earn roughly $39,700 a year. However, that number can more than double for those in positions in science, technology, engineering, and math. The top paying STEM job for recent grads is as a petroleum engineer, with the median pay for those with three years’ experience or less in this field at $88,700. Women in STEM fields earn 33% more than their peers in other fields.

Furthermore, while your friends are having trouble finding decent work, the demand for workers in STEM jobs is high. Fewer people overall graduate with degrees in these fields so the pool of candidates for jobs is smaller. While employment is down in many fields, employment in many STEM jobs is expected to increase in the coming years. For example, employment in nuclear engineering is expected to increase by 10% between 2010 and 2020 and employment of petroleum engineers is expected to grow 17% from 2010 to 2020. 

Things are getting even better. In order to make careers in STEM more appealing to women, many organizations are taking action to make the balance between work and family life easier. One example of this is the National Institutions of Health’s “re-entry” program, which allows scientists to take time off to raise children or attend to other family responsibilities without fear of losing their job. Though this policy is open to everyone, over 90% of participants have been women. Many companies and schools are also working to find mentors for young women in their chosen field.

With more women in STEM jobs, technological products, services, and solutions are likely to represent all users. The greater variety of experiences and ideas will enhance these fields by bringing attention to the needs of everyone. So go for it. Who knows? You just might be the female role model that encourages a whole generation of women to pursue a career in STEM fields.