For decades, companies and universities have done extensive research to determine why women are less likely to join STEM fields. Multiple social, economic, and political factors tend to have an impact on why more women choose to begin their professional careers in other fields. The first reason that comes to mind when thinking about why a hardworking and competent woman might not take on a career in STEM, is that historically and socially, STEM has been male-dominated and masculine. However, it seems that 21st century women are no longer intimidated by this fact. Rather, one of the main issues with STEM as an underrepresented field for women has to do with recruitment and mentoring. When there aren’t sufficient role models for women, especially at the collegiate education level, female students may have a difficult time visualizing a successful career for themselves. Additionally, society and history tell us that STEM fields are masculine ones, and present the idea that they are not for women and therefore portray an inaccurate picture of what STEM fields could be.
Even after a women has secured a job in a STEM field, the challenges that attempt to push her away do not cease, so the question of whether or not job security actually exists for women in STEM endures. It is well known that wage gaps, particularly in tech, remain an issue for female employees and have the potential to drive those employees away when such wage gaps aren’t rectified. Another predominant factor has to do with company culture. If a company’s mission or an organization’s values and ethics do not aline with that of the female employee, problems arise. This is where sexual harassment in the workplace comes into play. When sexual harassment isn’t actively combated against, and when concerns are not met, it’s only natural that any employee would want to look for a new position, particularly one that is a victim of sexual harassment. Finally, due to the reasons listed above, coupled with other factors, leadership positions for women in STEM are generally limited and difficult to attain.
Rates of leadership roles and management positions for women are usually relatively small, especially in STEM fields. This could be partly attributed by misguided education and recruitment. If more educational institutions and entry level positions put more of an emphasis on strong leadership skills, particularly for women, perhaps this would help the issue. Peer collaboration is also key, and a factor in why all-female workplaces are so successful. With all-female workplaces, any role can be a leadership role and opportunities for advancement are ample.
Careers and leadership roles in STEM fields, while challenging to earn, are attainable for hard-working, confident women who are not easily intimidated. The future of STEM is bright, and could be illuminated even further, if more women chose STEM for a promising career.
Author: Kelly Friday
Kelly is an undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a major in Health Information Management and a minor in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. She is dedicated to the University’s Handbell Ensemble, of which she is the Vice President and currently holds a student position in the Infectious Diseases Division at Pitt. When she isn’t trolling for new music for the Ensemble, she spends her free time wandering bookstores, always on the hunt for the next gripping page-turner. As part of the Make Muse Team, she uses her experience in the male-dominated professional sphere to empower more women to join the competitive workforce, particularly in underrepresented fields.