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viewpoint

Gender bias in STEM

| Thursday, November 5, 2015

Women are supposed to be nice and dainty and take care of the children. In my parent’s generation, that was the normal and accepted. Well, it’s not 1980 anymore and women are #flawless, #boss and #RondaRousey. We are running the world and kicking butt. Though powerful women are on the rise, women in science still lurk in the shadows of disapproval and stereotype.

From a young age, I have wanted to become a doctor — a surgeon to be specific. Throughout high school, some family members had discouraged that dream. From some of the men in my family, I had received advice to become a nurse or a physician’s assistant instead. I know those are both very respected careers, but they do require fewer years of education and are female-dominated professions. My male cousin was encouraged to become a doctor, even though I had the better grades. Yale University recently published a study suggesting that professional physicists, chemists and biologists are likely to view a young male scientist more favorably than a woman with the same qualifications. Well isn’t that just spectacular? Men are automatically given the upper hand. There are no studies on how men are biologically smarter than women.

I have recently begun the process of applying to summer research internships, and many of them prefer minority applicants. Being a female is listed as a minority under their description. Even though I can use that to my advantage, I much rather prefer to not be viewed as a minority in my field of study. I am even considered a minority at my college. I am one of seven chemistry majors in my class of about 400. I chose Saint Mary’s because there would be no men to compete with or be discouraged by in my science classes. Fortunately both the male and female science professors are here to encourage us to succeed in our respective STEM fields. As college students, we need to combat the stereotype and show the men at all institutions that women are as smart and capable.

Women in STEM seem to be given a stereotype. When society thinks of female scientists, either a degrading halloween costume or a homely, chubby nerd comes to mind. Both images are incredibly inaccurate and suggest that we can’t be taken seriously. Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt thinks that women are too distracting and too emotionally fragile to be in a scientific setting. From what I have gathered in my college career thus far, some men just don’t want us entering into the realm of STEM. Why don’t they want us? They are intimidated by us. We are an up-and-coming superpower that can’t be stopped. We are here to take what is rightfully ours: equal opportunity and the respect we deserve. We are after their jobs. The gap has gotten narrower in the past decade but women still only hold a fourth of all STEM doctorates. We need to demolish this gender-biased field by encouraging young girls to pursue STEM and by being the powerful and smart women that we are.

Watch out men, we aren’t as hesitant to join the STEM field as we once were. Society is beginning to realize that we are as intelligent and overpowering as you. We will be the ones to cure cancer, the ones to relate quantum gravity to the origin of the universe, the ones to develop life-saving technology and the ones to bring peace to the world.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Thanks, Megan, for your letter!

    What’s been bugging me about the whole STEM thing is that what we actually should be talking about is STEAM – Science Technology Engineering ART Math.

    If part of the goal of STEM, in addition to bringing more “women and girls” into STEM fields {and, to be honest, I think there’s something a little nefarious about this whole endeavor beyond empowerment} is also to teach adaptability & creativity & innovation as they relate to STEM, can’t the Arts contribute to this, too?