Rediscover STEAM
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Rediscover STEAM

How Do We Bridge the Gender Gap in STEM?

source: Women You Should Know

Throughout history, women’s accomplishments in the STEM fields are often attributed to their male partner or overlooked entirely. For instance, Martha Chase and Alfred Hershey conducted the renowned Hershey-Chase experiments that confirmed DNA is genetic material and the building block of life. However, only Alfred Hershey, the man of the pair, received the Nobel Prize for their landmark research, and Martha Chase’s involvement went largely unrecognized during her lifetime. In that vein, Rosalind Franklin discovered the double helix structure of DNA using x-ray crystallography, but two males scientists, James Watson and Francis Crick, essentially took credit for her work. We owe our way of life now to women, such as Hedy Lamarr, who pioneered the technology that would serve as the foundation for today’s WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth communication systems. It now falls on us to write these women trailblazers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics permanently into history and to empower the next generation of young women to pursue the fields.

Women make up a staggering 28% of the workforce in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Men greatly outnumber the number of women pursuing STEM-related majors in university with only 21% of engineering majors and 19% of computer science majors being women. Women of color are further underrepresented with less than 3% black and 4% Latina female doctorate graduates in science and engineering.

A long history of men dominating the STEM fields, outdated gender stereotypes and societal norms dictating which jobs women “belong in,” and a dire lack of female representation continue to perpetuate the gender gap in STEM. Textbooks, books, television shows, movies, documentaries, news, and overall popular culture often highlight male scientists, computer scientists, engineers, and mathematicians in favor of women, who have made just as impressive of contributions to the field. With society constantly telling us we do not belong in the STEM fields, it comes with no surprise that countless women experience the phenomenon of imposter syndrome: feeling like a fraud.

We need to show ourselves compassion, take steps to create a culture that embraces women and minorities entering STEM, not discourage them, award equal credit to men and women who make strides in the field, and showcase female role models from a diversity of backgrounds for young women to look up to. Representation matters.

Within the last decade, new efforts have been spearheaded to rewrite the false narrative that women cannot be successful in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to permanently write into history the overlooked and untold stories of women in these fields, a promising start to closing the gender gap.

Read the stories of underrepresented women in science, technology, engineering, art & mathematics throughout history at Rediscover STEAM

References

Campbell, Molly, “Feeling Like a Fraud: Impostor Syndrome in STEM,” Technology Networks, October 7, 2019, https://www.technologynetworks.com/tn/articles/feeling-like-a-fraud-impostor-syndrome-in-stem-324839

“The STEM Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math,” AAUW, https://www.aauw.org/resources/research/the-stem-gap/

“Rosalind Franklin: A Crucial Contribution,” Scitable by nature Education, 2020, https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/rosalind-franklin-a-crucial-contribution-6538012/

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Natasha Matta

Natasha Matta

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Interested in all things health equity, social justice, and empowerment.