Everyday Sexism: Women In STEM

Continuing our “Everyday Sexism” series with the Virginia Tech Women’s Center, we investigate the barriers women face in STEM, and similarly male-dominated disciplines.

As a right-brained female who visibly shudders when the words “calculator,” “math,” or “lab” are mentioned, I will admit I am a bit of an outsider in these discussions. But I will also admit I never gave math a chance because I believed the implicit biases that women aren’t good at these things.

But these women did not let that stop them. They are remarkably gifted in such fields, and are unafraid of pursuing their passions. However, certain sexist opinions exist and create barriers for women in STEM.  

By collecting survey responses from undergraduate and graduate women on campus, we uncovered certain sexist stereotypes still exist for women in these fields. By asking them to share their experiences and offer their solutions for creating greater awareness, this is what we discovered!

Emily, “As one of 2 females at a technology internship, my roommate was ignored or treated as less important than other employees. The most important thing is to just point out and recognize when someone says or does something that is sexist.”

Laura, “Men in STEM making extremely lewd comments about women/directly sexually harassing the female minority in STEM. Creating a zero-tolerance policy and being very clear upfront about possible consequences.”

Anonymous, “When the doctor you're speaking with knows every single male doctor in another practice by name then says, ‘oh the female doctor... I don't remember her name.’  More women doctors, please!”

Megan, “Guys assuming they have to explain politics to you, when you are a political science minor. Show them that you are aware of the political climate.”

Daisy, “I have been told that women can't do business jobs as those are for men, women need to stay at home and not work, women can't play video games, women need to know how to cook and clean, women are bad drivers. I just smile and continue on doing things that are not ‘womanly’.”

Noralee Beecroft, “I encounter sexism often in the work environment. It typically happens when I'm lifting something, men will ‘come to my rescue’ as if I am completely unable. One time I was told ‘this was a man’s job’ and I regret not saying something back. Always, always say something. We do not need to feel subjected to men whether it occurs when we are in the act of doing something that requires more physical exertion or doing any other task. You will regret it if you don't. It can be as simple as a smug comment back, explaining to them that you are not comfortable or better yet reporting it to a trusting person that has the authority to do something about it.”

Here's to empowering women to do anything regardless of stereotypes that linger. For further assistance on campus, be sure to utilize our resources at the Virginia Tech Women's Center.

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Image sources: Pexels.com / Women’s Center