Ever since I was little, I was inspired to work in the STEM field by my parents. They both work in CS, and would talk about work frequently. The way they talked about it sounded so interesting, so I always asked questions about what they do. They would then tell me that I can become anything I want, and that I can achieve as great things as anyone else. However, society has a different plan for me.
Most of the women who are inspired to be in the STEM field can agree that they have faced sexism at least once in their life. Some of us have faced it multiple times, sometimes even daily. We constantly hear (mainly from men) things like, “You’re a brave woman to pursue a STEM career ”, “Science isn’t for females” or “You can’t be that smart.” These are only some of the phrases that I’ve personally heard from people when I tell them that I want to be a scientist.
As a person who has lived in three different parts of the world, I can attest that sexism exists in STEM. It’s painfully obvious, and it is a massive issue today. The issue is that many people refuse to recognize it.
According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up half of the total U.S. college workforce, yet they make up only 28% of the science and engineering workforce, which shows that something ain’t right. In addition, only 15% of people in engineering are women, and only 26% of people in computer and mathematical science are women. Why are these percentages so low? Because as soon as women say that they want to pursue a STEM career, others try to shut us down, and try to convince us that we can not achieve anything, despite the amazing women who have changed the world throughout history. Due to constantly being humiliated, we believe them and pursue other careers that we don’t want because we aren’t welcomed in the ones that we are truly passionate about.
You might think the percentages are so low because women are not as interested in STEM as men are. Well, then let’s talk about how women are not paid equally in STEM careers when they do the same exact job as men. Take a look at statistics from the 2013 American Community Survey. According to them, women in engineering are paid only 82% of what their male counterparts are paid, and women in computing are paid only 87% of what their male counterparts are paid, which shows that women in the STEM field are not being paid fairly. Being paid only 82% in engineering and only 87% in computing of what their male counterparts are paid? Sounds like a big gap. It’s unfortunate to see how we are getting paid less than men do, just because of our gender. Since we see this, why would we want to go into a career that we know would not pay us equally as anyone else? Why do we receive less money, even though we are all the same people, who do the same job as anyone else?
Another issue that we have is women in STEM not being recognized for their inventions and discoveries as men are. How about we will talk more about Maria Sibylla Merian, the first and most important entomologist? How about Ada Lovelace, the first person to create a computer program? How about Nettie Stevens, who discovered the genetics of sex-linked genes? Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. Grace Hopper, the woman who invented the first compiler, forever changing how we use computers. Rachel Carson, who taught the world about the ocean’s ecosystem. And so many other amazing women who created, discovered, and invented so many things that changed the world.
Without women in STEM, we would not live in the same world as we are right now. So let’s give them more recognition, and show the younger generations that women can and should be in STEM if that’s what they are passionate about. No matter what society is telling us.