Being a female in a male-dominated field is incredibly rewarding, but it’s not without its difficulties. Even today, in a world much more accepting than it was 20 years ago, women in STEM often struggle with discrimination. With 13.5% of women graduating with bachelor degrees in a STEM field, according to the 2016 census, men still greatly outnumber women. In fact, there were more than double the percentage of men who specialized in STEM for their bachelors, reaching 37.5%.
It’s obvious there’s a discrepancy, and in general, nobody is trying to deny that. Besides, it’s proven that women working in STEM face more discrimination and sexual harassment than those working in humanities. The fact of the matter is that to be a woman in STEM, you have to make the decision to willingly immerse yourself in an environment that is fighting against your success. You’ve essentially analysed your odds, and even though they’re stacked against you, you’ve decided to give it your best shot.
As a female majoring in mathematics, the challenges women in STEM face aren’t news to me. But, I’m also aware of how rewarding it can be.
There’s an expectation that females aren’t as adept at STEM as their male counterparts, and thus, you usually have to work twice as hard to get the same recognition. Usually, the fact that you are female undermines your reputation. But in turn, you learn to work hard and put all your effort into your discipline. You aren’t given the same benefit of the doubt as your male colleagues, so you have to prove yourself. And that is an amazing motivator.
Does it suck that you have to constantly prove yourself? Of course. But the power of doubt is huge. Wanting to show that you are good enough for your field helps you push your limits and exceed your own expectations of yourself. Women in STEM prove themselves to be incredibly capable and resilient.
Some of my closest friends are also in STEM and just listening to them discuss what they’ve learned recently with such intensity and dedication makes me want to do better. All of them have defied societal expectations in one way or another, and the fact they have done so while pursuing something they love is proof that women have the same aptitude as men for working in STEM.
So, if you’re a woman interested in STEM but find the entire field a little daunting, or if you’re already in the field and need a reason to stay, know that the entire science, math, technology, and engineering world isn’t trying to tear you down. There are so many programs designed to help women overcome the stigma associated with such a career. There is plenty of support to fight the discrimination you might face!
After all, if we want to rise above the stigma, we need to have each other’s backs.