Did you know that only 30% of scientific researchers are women? Did you know that 35% of STEM university graduates are women? Those numbers seem pretty low to me, do they to you?
Well, in this blog, we’re going to be discovering why these figures are so low, why women aren’t going into STEM careers, and why it’s important to encourage young women to go into these careers.
Firstly, what is STEM?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In our current society, the gender difference in STEM is huge. The ratio of male to female employees is 73% to 27%, and that is why it’s becoming increasingly important to encourage women into these professions and support more young girls and young women to chase their dreams and dive into these careers just as a man can.
Why do women not take an interest in STEM?
Unfortunately, many women do not take an interest in STEM careers due to sexism and sexist behaviour shown towards them in the workplace.
For example, women are seen as outsiders by men and are judged for taking an interest in STEM careers because they tend to be painted as more masculine. When a female takes an interest, she is judged and faced with discrimination. This happens not only in the workplace but also at home.
Aristotle once said compared women to ‘deformed males’; if that is how we are seen in science, we are bound to face sexism and gender discrimination to this day, but this needs to change.
The experience of a woman in the STEM workplace
Whilst working in STEM, many women have reported feeling a lot of imposter syndrome – the feeling that they are judged for having an interest and a passion for the subject and at work and that they aren’t good enough to be there since it is very male-dominated. Women don’t feel encouraged to thrive in their field and so aren’t enjoying their careers as much as they thought they would.
My goog friend Alice wants to go into medicine and become a doctor, so the topic of STEM and how women need to be included and encouraged to join is very important to her. While writing this blog and researching, I thought, who better to ask than her? Here’s our interview!
Have you ever faced sexism or judgement for being passionate about STEM subjects or a career in STEM?
I think I’ve had more of a considerable and concerning amount of warnings. I can recall telling someone and being told it’s a very male-dominated industry, and they said that I’d find it difficult. If anything, it does concern me, but it doesn’t make me not want a career – it just makes me want to do it more.
I don’t know if it’s just me, my personality or my background, but when I tell people I want to be a doctor, it still shocks people. I don’t think that a man would get that response. I’ve never seen a man or a young man telling someone they want to be a doctor and then being told it’s competitive, and they will find it difficult.
Do you think it’s important for young girls to be encouraged into STEM?
Oh, definitely, 100%, no doubt about it. If anything, I think it’s incredibly important because there’s a lot of sexist arguments associated with women’s expression of emotions and how their hormones and emotions can get in the way of reasonable decision-making.
If anything, I think those emotions and empathetic decisions make a brilliant doctor or someone who is studying in STEM because you have to have these skills to better society in the most humane way.
Why do you think young girls aren’t as interested as young men in STEM?
Personally, I don’t see the deterrent because I’m interested in it, and I can’t really see the divide. However, I definitely see progress. There are certainly more women going into STEM now. The interest and availability of STEM jobs for women have increased over time, so it’s getting better.
What advice would you give to a young girl considering a STEM-based job?
I think that I would advise them to take the underlying sexism of people’s statements and reactions and twist it into their motivation. I think you know you’re capable of doing it because you thought about it, and the ambition of you trying to get into an industry that is about improving humans and their health is never a bad thing to be interested in. Knowledge is power, so any way you can get it, snatch that opportunity.
What do you enjoy about STEM-based subjects?
I think it’s the fact that you get a concrete answer yet still can investigate to the core why it happens. Personally, I’m astounded by the systems and messages the human body communicates to do the simplest or most extreme tasks. I love that it can always be further investigated and can be so rewarding and beneficial.
So, what can we do to encourage women into STEM?
The increase of women in STEM is going to keep increasing. Over the years, we had amazing female scientists, for example, Marie Curie, who discovered radium and polonium and made fascinating discoveries involving radiation. Therefore, I believe that we must keep encouraging women to join a career in STEM and shouldn’t let sexism and gender stereotypes stop them. Those who think this way should be educated on the topic.
This blog was written by Lily-Rose Chapman. Read more of her blogs here.