Women's Role in STEM

The 21st century has without a doubt made great leaps in gender equality in male dominated industries, but is there still room for improvement?

One of the most hurtful ways sexism can hinder a woman's aspirations in life is in the workplace. Especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), women can often have their careers altered due to societal expectations for women to pursue the arts, linguistics or hospitality. In some cases, they can have their careers cut short, as a portion of women will be unrightfully expected to be the housewife and let the man work and earn. While all the laws are in place for a fair and equal society, not everyone's attitude to the matter matches up. Nonetheless, I'm optimistic that my generation will have a good crack at the issues of sexism in the workplace in the coming years.

The following statistic has increased since the inspirations of physicists Marie Curie and Lisa Meitner, and it has been on a rapid rise since 2015. Yet, the fact that only 24% of STEM workers are female is still insufficient. That is, according to Imperial College of London, less than a quarter of the STEM workforce is composed of women (as of 2019). I think it would be wrong to claim that if women don't want to pursue STEM, we shouldn't 'force' them to do so - I believe just as many women as men would be interested in tech-oriented jobs if our nation would continue to 'open up' in the same way we have been doing for a decade.

In engineering, it is even more dire in terms of gender equality; women make up only 16.5% of the field, according to Women's Engineering Society. But it is obvious that someone like one of my relatives, a 17-year-old female apprentice studying at an Engineering Training Association in Northeast Lincolnshire, is enthusiastic about the discipline. She is studying for an NVQ level 3 qualification. After some initial hesitation, she gained confidence upon successfully creating an electrical circuit that earned a distinction grade. She's looking to be 'on the tools' for the first few years to gain experience, and then hoping to lead a team. Evidently, she's a great example of the potential women have in the future of engineering:

"There is no reason women shouldn't be able to do the same things men have been doing."

Luckily for many of us, we were brought up without gender conflict as a significant concern, but in a male dominated industry such as the ones above, it can become an overbearing omen. With years to come, the common hope is that synthetic discrepancies between men and women will fade for the better. There are sectors marked as 'boys clubs' such as construction and business, and even the typically masculine hobbies of snowboarding, bodybuilding, and videogaming. They shun and discriminate against women, who have to force themselves to fit into the infamous patriarchy. However, they'd be much better off if they were just themselves.

image: Freepik.com - "24% of STEM workers are female""Women make up only 16.5% of the field"