The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields are very difficult to study. The subjects are challenging and require you to think critically about everything. STEM is not for everyone and many people are discouraged from pursuing these fields. However, it is mostly women who are the ones discouraged. Many people still think that men are superior at math and science when that is not true at all. This social stigma is dissuading women from entering the STEM fields and this must change immediately.
I love science and I like to believe that the road to becoming a biologist will be smooth as long as I work extremely hard, but I’m becoming more and more pessimistic about whether or not I could succeed in the STEM field. My cynicism started when my sister sent me an article about a study that was done by Yale. The university gave academic researchers and faculty members job applications of identically qualified male and female applicants. They found that male AND female scientists were consistently more likely to hire the male applicants. Male applicants were ranked hire in competency and were more likely to be paid more. Like so many other factions of society, science isn’t immune to gender inequality.
True life: My science class is 95% male
I hear stories from my brother-in-law and other college students that in their engineering classes there are usually only one or two girls in their classes. This, unfortunately, does not surprise me at all. Students are consistently only asking the male students to help them when they do not understand something. The male students in my classes also continually dominate class discussions.
Though I am a rather shy person myself, my biggest fear about speaking up is that I will sound stupid or embarrass myself. This leads me to believe that maybe I’m not cut out to pursue STEM. I begin all my questions with either sorry or a disclaimer. Too often I find myself saying “this might be a stupid question but…” or “sorry could you do problem number 13.” However, in my observations I see that I’m not the only one doing that. A large amount of the women in my calculus class ask questions that begin with “sorry” and it’s become a habit that we don’t even notice we’re doing it. I don’t feel confident in my own abilities, which is something that needs to change.
Thankfully not all hope is lost. The U.S. government and organizations everywhere are noticing the lack of females in STEM. When I was in middle school I participated in a conference called Expanding Your Horizons. It aimed to introduce young girls to all the possibilities that STEM had to offer. The conference took place in a single day and I was able to participate in hands-on activities. It was a fun experience and encouraged me to learn more about the STEM field. Programs like these that encourage females to pursue STEM will help reduce the gender gap. Toys like the Goldie Blox allow girls to experience and become interested in STEM at a young age. Educators and parents must instill the belief into girls that they can succeed in any field that they want.
Young girls need women that they can look up to. They need to see successful women scientists, engineers, mathematicians, etc. in the media earning praise for their accomplishments. We need to recognize the important contributions that women have made to the STEM fields. Rosalind Franklin contributed greatly to the discovery of the structure of DNA. Not only was she not recognized for her work, but her research may even have lead to her death. History has not been kind to females in STEM and has left us with few well-known female role models.
To quote the queen Beyoncé, “We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet…we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible.” We must break through the glass ceiling and empower young girls to explore STEM. We can do anything we want to.