Why Women in Stem Are Important

In 2017, women filled 47% of all jobs in the United States and earned more college degrees than men, but only held 24% of STEM jobs. As of 2016, only 11.1% of physicists and astronomers, 35.2% of chemists, and 7.9% of mechanical engineers were women. The lack of diversity present in STEM-related jobs is also extremely prevalent; in 2013, 70% of workers in STEM fields were white. But why is it so important for educated and qualified women to fill these positions? In this article I will provide several comprehensive reasons.

For one, it has been a well-documented phenomenon that women are much more often misdiagnosed than men when it comes to issues such as heart disease, and more notably, disorders that are specific to women such as endometriosis. An estimated 1 in 10 women in the U.S. suffer from endometriosis, but many are not diagnosed. Symptoms that can constitute endometriosis such as extremely painful periods, nausea, and painful bowel movements can be written off as simply “PMS,” as well as over-exaggeration of symptoms. Female physicians and medical professionals are more likely to recognize these symptoms, and treat female patients more accurately.

Additionally, the prototypical model most often used in biomedical research has always been an average-sized male. As a result, "Sex, the biggest variable, has not been systematically evaluated and reported in the same way as variables like time, temperature, and dose, even in diseases that are female dominated," says Teresa K. Woodruff, director of the Women's Health Research Institute at Northwestern University. This inaccurate research model excludes over half of the population and can lead to incorrect prescription potencies and adverse health effects. Finally, in the past, women’s health issues have been pushed aside. A few years ago when a male birth control pill was being tested, men quickly ditched the test period trial when they experienced many symptoms that women who take the pill experience on a regular basis.

It is also evident and noteworthy to mention that in the present day, the rights that women have to their own bodies are still being regulated by our government, which still consists mainly of conservative men. The war on women’s access to healthcare including abortion and birth control is a feminist issue that female scientists are more likely to explore. It’s time we ditch the prototypical image of the old white man in a lab coat as the ideal scientist, and open up to a more diverse, accurate depiction of reality.