Women in STEM

 Logo proposal for Wikipedia article contest about Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Contest organized by Wikimedia Ukraine.


Logo proposal for Wikipedia article contest about Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Contest organized by Wikimedia Ukraine.

Julissa Guevara-Lopez

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. STEM uses a combination of all those things and critical thinking skills to be able to understand and solve technical issues. People who are often involved in STEM related careers typically have a very creative and socially active background. To be able to work in STEM related fields you must be able to be a good communicator and collaborator.

In 2019, a survey was conducted to see the difference in data between men and women in STEM related fields–84.1% were men and 26.7% were women. In that same year, there were nearly 10.8 million workers in STEM occupations. In 1970, women made up 8% of STEM workers, and then in 2019, they made up 27%. This was a very big accomplishment, however, men still dominated the field. Women specifically covered the social science, math, and life science portion. However, they did not make much progress in engineering and technology jobs. 

Many wonder why there is such a big gap between women and men in STEM fields. One of the reasons is that women are looked at as less hardworking, and people often assume women’s abilities are less than men’s because women are often seen more as teachers, working with kids, or at staying at home. Women are also seen to have less natural talent compared to men like in sports, when in reality, women are just as good and are able to perform equally to men.

Another reason is a lack of female role models. Girls from a young age are never introduced to or see older women working in STEM related fields which causes young girls to believe that those fields are not meant for them. It is very important to have someone to look up when trying to find a career path you want to follow. However, with such a small number of women to look up to it, gives a sense of hopelessness to young girls.

Sexism is also viewed as the biggest gap because there is a strong stereotype about men having more natural talent than women in STEM fields and it is not true. Research has shown that women perform equally as men, but because of the stereotype, it often drives women away from STEM. There is also sexism in the workplace because there is a lack of female leaders and it causes a barrier. Lastly, women earn less money working in STEM occupations compared to men. In 2019, there was a reported median salary of $90,000 for men and $66,200 for women.

There have been many stories of women who have broken the barrier such as Nancy Grace Roman. She was the first ever female executive at NASA and served as NASA’s first chief. When being asked what classes she was going to take in high school, she said this: “I still remember asking my high school guidance teacher to take a second year of algebra instead of a fifth year of Latin. She looked down her nose at me and sneered, ‘What lady would take mathematics instead of Latin?’ This shows how many people, such as her teachers, did not support or approve Nancy’s choices from the start. Nancy had to prove herself and didn’t have many people to look up to either. The first “encouragement” she got came from a college professor who told her, “I usually talk women out of going into physics, but I think, maybe, you might make it.” This was not Nancy’s ideal type of encouragement, but instead of taking it to offence, she used it to push herself even more. She got her bachelor’s degree in astronomy from Swarthmore in 1964. “I was told by many people that a woman could not be an astronomer…I’m glad I ignored them,” Dr. Roman said when she was honored at the 2016 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. Nancy spent a short amount of time teaching and studying at Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin, but that was when she realized that “here was one other woman in astronomy who had tenure in this country.” She was also underpaid, earning under two thirds of what men earned.  

Overall, women have always been looked down upon from the start. The amazing women in STEM related fields have worked through the gender gap which includes gender stereotypes, sexism, and a lack of role models. To help make a change we can all encourage younger girls to look into STEM and see if they are interested in them. I believe that if girls were exposed to all these career choices at a younger age. then they would find more of an interest in them and become more open minded. Women are capable of anything they put their minds to, and they can achieve the same things as men. You must always persevere and have a good mindset to see the good in the bad.