HISTORY OF WOMEN IN STEM

Women in STEM have broken sound barriers and gender barriers for hundreds of years.

Percent of Women in STEM

Even though women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, they only represented 27% of jobs in the STEM field as of 2019. This is progress compared to the 8% representation they had in 1970, but a long way from their male colleagues who account for roughly 73% of all STEM roles.

Line graph detailing the percentage of women in STEM between 1970-2019

Being a white woman of privilege in a male dominated industry is hard.  Now, imagine being a woman of color. The difficultly level just tripled and your income declined.

COVID has brought to light the significant impact women in leadership are making. The evidence has shown — in country after country — how governments led by women are more effective in flattening the curve and positioning for economic recovery.

89% of women consider themselves ambitious as it relates to their career. But, according to a 2019 “Women in the Workplace” study, out of 100 men promoted or hired to a manager position, only 72 women are hired for the same role.

If empirical evidence supports the need for greater gender equality for women in STEM, then why does the disparity continue?

Why are there less Women in STEM?

There are many reasons to support why there are fewer women in STEM roles. Some include:

But what about childhood and the impact of gender norms?

If you’re a parent of a son and a daughter, which child are you more likely to ask to mow the lawn? Does your son or daughter have more legos? What about dolls?

Imposing the idea that activities and behaviors are “masculine” and “feminine” can be limiting to a child’s development. This 2020 study shows that women are outperforming men in both physical and life science undergraduate courses at the same institution, while simultaneously continuing to be perceived as less-able students.

 

Discovering this information will only cause women interested STEM to question their future career choices.

Will they be able to add value like their male colleagues? Will they be considered for promotions equally to their male counterparts? Will they be included as an active member of the team?

The answers to these questions directly impact the number of women pursuing STEM careers.

The Boy’s Club

 In a study of 1500 women, 54% say they have worked for a company with a “boy’s club” culture. These numbers are significantly higher for women in STEM.

Women who work in organizations supporting a “boy’s club” mentality experience the following:

Women who work in organizations supporting a “boy’s club” mentality experience the following:

  1. Asked to take notes at a meeting.
  2. Requested to organize gifts for their boss on behalf of the team.
  3. Realizing a big work decision was made by male co-workers on the golf course.
  4. Being told to smile more.
  5. Being told you are too aggressive.
  6. Mansplaining
  7. Frequently asked about the challenges of juggling children with your career.
  8. Exclusion from after-hours activities that are only meant for the boys.
  9. Being told not to close the door in a private meeting because of #MeToo.
  10. Hearing a male colleague rephrasing your exact idea and taking credit for it.

Understanding how to be treated equally at work is similar to finding the perfect way to stand in order to get service when you are in an area with limited cell coverage. If you hold your left arm in front of you, stand on your right leg, and tilt your head to the left at a 45 degree angle, maybe that will help.

Word Cloud of inventions created by women in STEM shaped like a female silhouette

 

Women in STEM have excelled in spite of “boy’s clubs”, outdated gender roles and responsibilities, making less money, and being marginalized.

Think about Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughn who were each represented in the blockbuster movie, Hidden Figures.

They had to fight so hard to be heard, to be included, and to be respected. Think of the frustration these women experienced. But, they never stopped fighting.

Even though women in STEM are not where they want to be, please keep fighting. If you don’t, our society is at risk of missing out on incredible inventions created by women in STEM.

Check some of them out here.

© SOURCE EXPLORER 2021

QUOTES FROM WOMEN IN STEM

Quote - I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy - Marie Curie
Quote - I used to not like being called a woman architect. I am just an architect.
Quote - By learning to create technology, girls can learn to speak up by Regina Agyare

Conclusion

Just because their names may not roll off your tongue as easily Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, or Albert Einstein, be confident that women in STEM have been kicking ass for hundreds of years. Even more impressive is that they have done this while being subjected to outdated gender roles and stereotypes.

Women in STEM are superheroes. They are highly intelligent, intentionally curious, fiercely resilient, and exceptionally creative. They are strong. They are bold.

Companies must put specific plans in place to advance women at work. This includes unconscious bias training, programs that ensure women are hired and promoted fairly, and allowing equal access to sponsorship and mentorship opportunities.

Parents need to do more to make sure children don’t feel they are expected to play a role dictated by societal norms rather than their strengths. Buy your daughter that Snap Circuit game she has been asking for. Let your son play with that doll.

The next time you hear someone making non-inclusive comments about the value women bring to the STEM field, threaten to take away their Wi-Fi, which was invented by Hedy Lamarr. Afterall, you shouldn’t be able to use the inventions of women if you don’t support their inclusion.

Infographic featuring 10 prominent women who have made history in the field of STEM

Note from the author:  While writing this blog, I experienced the following:

  • Constant interruptions from my 5yo
  • Making lunch
  • Discussions with my 5yo on why we should go outside rather than be on screens – he didn’t want to go
  • After convincing him to go outside to ride his scooter, he didn’t want to come in
  • Outside turned into soccer…then basketball…then gardening
  • Shower time for the kiddo
  • Dinner

The women we celebrate in STEM roles have had to experience so much more than this to succeed. Today, on International Women’s Day, we honor and celebrate their success.

SOURCE EXPLORER is where Life Science Professionals come to discover the latest case studies or white papers, find relevant webinars or podcasts for professional growth, and uncover rock star suppliers they can hire for their next project. We are…Where Life Science Lives.

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