Why We Should Encourage Women to Pursue All Fields, Not Just STEM

Throughout recent history, we have seen women trailblaze their ways through male-dominated fields. Movies such as Hidden Figures have conveyed powerful stories to the young women of today about going after what you’re passionate about. Just by Googling “girls in STEM,” you come across pages and pages filled with organizations and conferences to discuss the apparent gender gap in STEM fields.

These efforts to encourage women to enter fields that have historically been controlled by men is commendable. However, I believe that instead of inspiring women to go into STEM, we should just be focusing on inspiring them to pursue whatever career they’d like.

In my middle school technology classes, I enjoyed designing random items like an iPhone or chess pieces on CAD software. I’d go above and beyond by creating more and more projects to show my teachers until I was selected for an accelerated technology program. From that point on, the pool of females in the program dropped little by little each year, resulting in an indirect relationship between the number of females and the amount of pressure added onto the remaining females. It was a constant voice in your ear for four years saying, “females in STEM get more scholarship money and can get a job just like that.”

During my sophomore year of high school, I joined the robotics team. The alluring aspect for me personally was that the program was branded under the phrase, “more than robots.” Once I became a member, those words seemed to have gone out the window. Well, kind of. The team was divided into technical and non-technical subteams, but one was substantially favored. When I started, our weekly meetings were divided equally between both factions, though it would never stay that way.

neon sign saying think about things differently

 

I can’t say I don’t appreciate the time I spent on the team. I found my passion for writing there and garnered skills in similar realms. That’s not what I’m upset about. I’m upset that they would rather see someone be unhappy in a career path just because of the women in STEM initiatives instead of fostering their interests in a non-technical field.

 

Flash forward to senior year, I spent hours curating college applications where I checked off electrical engineering for my major on every single one of them. Flash forward again to my first semester of college, I choked. My first semester taking calculus was visually equivalent to that Family Guy episode where Peter falls down the stairs is an erratic manner, breaking and bruising every bone in his body. Not even wrapping myself in bubble wrap and pillows could’ve padded my fall (Get it? It was fall semester). The battle between that class and myself was like taking on Sensei in the Club Penguin game, Card-Jitsu. Impossible. It’s safe to say I abruptly changed my major that semester.

After my first year of college, I went back to my high school to speak to a few classes of incoming college freshmen. While I was there, I said a few quick “hello”s to some of my former teachers. It was stunning that one of my tech teachers didn’t even want to talk to me because I was no longer a STEM major. I truly thought he was joking.

This is the problem. It’s nobody’s life but mine. I see so many people that go through the training and education for a specific career that was decided for them by those around them before they could talk, but it’s beyond wrong. We give a healthy amount of encouragement to men who may want to pursue a female-dominated field without shoving it down their throats as we do for females considering a male-dominated field. Instead of encouraging a specific profession, we should just be encouraging people to do what they love.

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