March 8 is International Women’s Day, in case you didn’t know. I didn’t…oops 🙂
Coincidently, Nathalia Gjersoe published a piece via The Guardian examining gender gaps in STEM. She touches on whether or not they are socially constructed (they are), whether or not girls are worse than boys at STEM subjects in school (they’re not), and more.
It’s safe to say that many factors are at play here…In any case, I will point out one undeniable truth of the matter. A disproportionate number of gals are capable of entering technical fields, but don’t.
Society has come a long way in the last few decades. We are now dying to know why so many women choose to abandon their STEM potentials.
Well, I can tell you why I didn’t.
I’ll preface this by acknowledging that I am relatively fortunate; my academic/professional environments have been, and still remain, largely gender-neutral. All the same, I would be lying if I said gender disparity and “social belongingness” never cross my mind as a woman, a part-time engineering student, and a part-time engineer.
My upbringing renders such thoughts irrelevant. Before I could even form memories, I was told I could do or be anything if I work hard. My dad spoke as though it is probable, not possible, for me to earn the same positions and salaries that he does as a highly-specialized software consultant.
And so I was bulletproof. No child, adult, teacher, professor, peer, male or otherwise could make me doubt my sense of belonging in a male-dominated field. Not little Josh in 5th grade, who was genuinely confused when I showed up to math league tryouts because I “like makeup and pocketbooks too much.” Nor Spence in college, who suggested I was being sensitive when I felt patronized by an administrator.
I’d like to hear from other ladies in STEM: Why didn’t you abandon your STEM potential?