White Coats, Female Scientists: Challenges faced by Women in STEM
According to several studies, gender discrimination is the highest in STEM fields. A whipping 50% of women in STEM say they have faced some sort of discrimination because of their gender. "Discrimination and sexual harassment are seen as more frequent, and gender is perceived as more of an impediment than an advantage to career success," the authors of a Pew report state. A fifth of women in STEM have resigned or quit their jobs because of this discrimination.
One struggle women have noted is that their work style is often under appreciated. One electrical engineer noted that her and her women peers’ work styles tend to be more reserved. While this works great for them, some companies do not like this. They coerce the women to be more dominating and loud, which this electrical engineer described as more male traits. She feels that certain companies have tried to make her more “masculine” for her to fit in. She wishes the STEm industry could understand that people have different work styles, and as long as the work gets done, that’s all that matters.
Another struggle many women in STEM face is an unconscious bias. She notes that while people try to be open to women in STEM, there is still a lot of favoritism to males. One female biochemistry major noted that she feels like her professors see their male students as more hardworking, intelligent, and curious in STEM. She points out that many of the professors would not even know they’re doing this as it is a subconscious idea in the back of these professors’ minds. This type of thinking must be eradicated.
The last type of struggle I’d like to discuss is arguably the most serious one: sexist comments and harassment. Several women in STEM fields have come forward and shared their stores of the highly inappropriate behavior by their male coworkers in a company setting or by their male classmates in a college setting. When faced with this situation, many women choose to switch their major, drop certain classes, or quit their job. In jobs, many women have noted that although their male boss described his company as one being completely open to women, this ended up being false. Women note that these types of men and these types of companies are eventually the ones who have the most harassment towards women in them.
Clearly, these struggles women face are not just, and there must be a change. Let us be the change that can help women in STEM all over the world!
BY: Nami Mahajan