As it stands, only around one quarter of all roles within the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are currently held by women. While exact national averages vary, the overall lack of representation in these critical sectors is global. Women account for 50% of the world’s population, but they remain significantly underrepresented in all STEM industries. Despite recent progress, a continued gender gap remains apparent.
When it comes to the gender gap in STEM-related sectors, the pharmaceutical field proves no exception. As the founder and CEO of Evergreen Pharma Solutions, Barinder Sandhu has encountered firsthand — and overcome — the distinct challenges facing women in these male-dominated sectors.
After more than 20 years of experience in the industry, Barinder Sandhu’s strong scientific acumen, persuasive leadership style, strong project management skills and investment in people have given her the capabilities to successfully lead a global team traversing many different cultures to tackle complete projects. More recently, Barinder Sandhu has focused her efforts towards giving back to the community by empowering other young women to recognize, realize and reach their full potential. She believes firmly that women have an important place in STEM, and that it is our duty to close the persistent gender gap in those crucial fields.
The Need for Women in STEM Roles
Closing the current gender gap in STEM industries would level the playing field for many professionals. That said, it is more than simple diversity which highlights the need for more women in STEM roles. Helping young women advance in these traditionally male-dominated careers would also lead to the furthered advancement of innovation and technology as a whole.
As highlighted by Barinder Sandhu, we rely on STEM fields to develop medical miracles, improve our lives, and help us solve complex problems. These industries are fueled by innovation — and innovation requires input from a diverse and creative workforce. Thus, the lack of diversity in STEM underlines a wealth of untapped potential with respect to innovation, creativity, problem-solving and technology in human advancement.
In order for innovation and technology to reach its full potential, the world needs more women in STEM roles. With their diverse skill sets and experiences, women bring a unique and necessary perspective to these fields, creating revelations that would be impossible to achieve in their absence.
Engaging Young Girls Towards STEM
The under-representation of women in STEM is apparent as early as high school, where male students are consistently more likely to enroll in advanced STEM classes such as Chemistry, Calculus, Physics, Computer Science, and Engineering. As students continue on in their educations, these trends remain consistent.
Unfortunately, young girls are saturated in a social ideology which dictates that women are less naturally inclined towards STEM-related subjects. Even if girls never formally receive the message that these subjects are best suited for males, they are systematically conditioned to believe so. In truth, young women are just as capable in these areas as their male counterparts. Sadly, many never receive the opportunity or encouragement necessary to realize their interests or pursue them further.
Barinder shares that during her time as an undergraduate she was told by her professor that “STEM is a man’s world and to get used to it.” With only a fraction of women choosing to pursue a post-secondary degree in STEM-related fields, these types of biases further reinforce industry-related stereotypes, ultimately discouraging women from enrolling in male-dominated sectors. She further emphasizes that many other women have heard similar comments, which can have a lasting effect on not only their career choice but their confidence and sense of self-worth.
Leveling these imbalances and encouraging more young women towards STEM-related fields lies in changing stereotypes early on. In doing so successfully, children will be better able to imagine women’s role in the world of science, technology, engineering, and math. According to Barinder, the best we can do is support their intuition and creativity. If we as a society fail to nurture the talents of women, then the world loses out, and we have stifled our innovation.
Thus, any efforts seeking to bridge the gender gap must focus primarily on impacting young women, particularly those in grade school or younger. The key lies in fostering their natural curiosities and fortifying them with encouragement and praise. In short, any effective measures will seek to harness young girls’ natural interest and empower them towards STEM fields before they become heavily steeped in any harmful societal narratives.