Women of STEM

Nikita Manjuluri

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Many are aware of the vast gender gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields. The problem is apparent because most girls at Centreville High School that were asked whether they wanted to be involved in a STEM career immediately said, “Never!”. However, some later discovered that their interests did fall in the category. It is a common perception of many American children that STEM is “nerdy and boring.” On the other hand, in other
countries, children excelling in these subjects is a sign of a gift. There is inaccurate prejudice surrounding the acronym and there are theories trying to explain why, as well as inspiring stories of successful women in these fields.

One of the most prominent controversies about why women are not working in STEM careers is that they are simply programmed to pursue careers that involve social settings and interpersonal skills instead. According to the chart, women constitute 91.1% of registered nurses, 81.8% of elementary and middle school teachers, and 80.8% social workers. It is believed they have traits that reflect empathy and understanding.

However, some believe that environmental influences keep women from science and technology careers. There is much evidence to prove that the surrounding people are the real discouragement. One environmental factor is employers and career prospects. A Yale study shows that a fake application of a male scientist was more favorable to six different prominent research facilities than a female scientist with the same qualifications. “If they did hire the woman, they set her salary, on average, nearly $4,000 lower than the man’s. Surprisingly, female scientists were as biased as their male counterparts,” the study adds. Even after pursuing studies in their respective fields, women are not accepted into some facilities and businesses.

The acronym STEM itself is uncomfortable for many and it is failed to be recognized as the foundation for success, especially by teenagers. Girls fail to commit to STEM clubs and competitions because they feel they are not as intelligent as their male peers. According to a study conducted by Science, children at the age of five tend to associate intelligence with their own gender, while six to seven year old children of all genders tend to believe that boys are smarter. As girls grow older, they are still more likely to associate boys with brilliance, but correctly believe that they receive better grades. The studies display that there is an environmental influence that convinces girls that they are not capable around a young age.

The women that did choose to overcome the bias, employers, and these environmental factors became incredible successes and inspirations. Scientists and engineers are not as recognized as celebrities, which itself is a problem that our society faces, but they do perform inconceivably complex and life-changing work that works towards advances in technology, efficiency, and answers to revolutionary questions that have been bothering people since the beginning of human history. One example of such a scientist is Emily Levesque, a stellar astrophysics researcher who “builds models of star-forming galaxies.” Jennifer Doudna is the inventor of CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), which allows scientists to edit genomes and can ultimately fight off viruses. Nina Tandon, a biomedical engineer, was able to grow bones from stem cells. These scientists have all made discoveries and contributions that can better and save millions of lives; they have found the ultimate way to give back to their community.

Portrait of Marie Curie.

Today, people are able to recognize historically prominent women in STEM too. One of the most reputable woman scientist in history is Marie Curie, a physicist and chemist known for her input on radioactivity. Rachel Carson is another woman who has revolutionized science by making advances in the global environment movement. Rosalind Franklin was a biophysicist that was denied credit on her discoveries concerning molecular structures and X-ray diffraction. Women have greatly assisted in scientific progress.

Organizations were created by women to promote women’s involvement in science and technology. For example, the National Girls Collaborative Project makes sure girls all over the world have access to all resources in order to pursue their dreams in STEM. Another organization is Million Women Mentors which works towards engaging one million mentors to encourage girls to persist in fields of STEM. Society of Women Engineers and the Association from Women in Science are few of the hundreds of organizations created that support women’s’ dreams worldwide.

In honor of Women’s History Month, understanding and working towards awareness of the arising opportunities for women in STEM careers is vital. At Centreville High School, there are many opportunities for teenagers to pursue their interest such as Women In Math Society (WIMS), Math Honor Society (MHS), America’s Leaders for Engineering, Future Medical Leaders of America (FMLA), Red Cross, Robotics, and Wildcats vs. Cancer. Centreville is teeming with opportunities to explore these fields and develop a passion for them.

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