As women’s history month draws to a close, I can’t help but look back and reflect the incredible achievements many women have achieved to break the glass ceiling, especially in the STEM field. From Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to be granted an MD degree in 1849, to Rosalind Franklin, who discovered DNA’s double helix structure in 1943, there have been so many advancements in the STEM field due to women. However, even today, only 28% of STEM workers are made up of women.
According to a survey done with women in STEM jobs, 91% of respondents admitted that gender discrimination is a career obstacle in the field. This is not okay, as the culture of gender discrimination being normalized in the STEM field can discourage future women from pursuing STEM jobs. In the same survey done, a whopping 100% said that self-doubt and confidence levels were an obstacle for them. In a field that is saturated with men, it is likely that imposter syndrome can kick in and cause women to feel unworthy, even if they are as intellectually capable as their male counterparts. This imposter syndrome could be potentially alleviated by having more female STEM role models for one to look up to, which circles back to the point about the importance of women in STEM.
Also, the lack of women in STEM can be attributed to the gender pay gap. From data about Research and Trends for Women in STEM, Women in engineering fields earn about 97% of what their male counterparts earn, and this decreases to around 86% to 93% for women in other STEM fields. Furthermore, when looking at race, Black women earn about 87% of a white woman’s salary. These disparities in the STEM field, or even in all workforces frankly, should not exist as women are performing the same work as men. This gender pay gap could potentially even be a factor that contributes to the imposter syndrome women in the STEM field face, as they might believe they are not smart enough as they are not being paid equally as their male counterparts.
Having more women in STEM will help to inspire women to feel like they can do almost everything. Having more diversity in STEM by increasing representation of not just women, but BIPOC women in particular, will help potentially even improve the field as a whole. Diversity should be celebrated across all careers, especially in STEM, to allow the field to grow and discover endless possibilities that would have not been possible without the eye of a woman in STEM.