International Women’s Day is dedicated to the celebration of women from every walks of life throughout history. From our humble role models to female superheroes, this day is also dedicated to our gals in white lab coats.
Female scientists throughout history have contributed their skills toward their respective disciplines, revolutionizing the way we perceive our world, whether it be through a macro- or microscopic lens. Scientists like Barbara McClintock, Mae Jemison and Marie Curie have become household names for representing women in STEM fields, inspiring other women to venture into the wonderful world of science.
Women and STEM Fields Today
Today, individuals have dedicated their efforts to encourage young women to pursue STEM fields, such as through activity-oriented events or innovative toys. Young women have begun sharing their innovations and inquisitive natures to the world, perfectly demonstrating the satiating curiosity and creative intellect of a future scientist. Today, popular science news outlets like Smithsonian Magazine and Nature are giving us the scoop on females in STEM fields, and writing articles praising their research efforts and accomplishments.
Unfortunately, despite these efforts, science is still experiencing a gender divide; women today are underrepresented in STEM fields compared to their male counterparts.
The Nitty-Gritty Statistics
David Beede et al. (2011) from the US Department of Commerce reported that females in the US represent only represent 24% of those in the STEM-related workforce. From 2000 to 2009, Beede et al. (2011) argue that the proportion of women working in STEM fields has not deviated from the 24%, even though the percentage of the college-educated women in the workforce increased from 46 to 49%.
The US National Science Foundation reports that women represent 21% and 5% of full time and engineering professorships respectively. The Foundation also reported that women represent over 25% of individuals working in the R&D sector of industries. Generally, they also earn about 82% of their male counterpart salaries.
London’s Royal Society of Chemistry surveyed female doctoral students in chemistry, noting 70% of respondents who wanted to pursue a career in research. A fews years later, only 37% of these respondents actually followed through these plans.
Many have proposed reasons why such a discrepancy still persists. Jennifer Raymond argues that this divide is a result of prejudices against women, while others suggest that women who wish to start families may find it challenging to pursue a research career. Leslie et al. (2015) even claim that lacking opportunities for women in STEM fields is because women scientists are not perceived as ‘naturally, intellectually brilliant’ compared to their male colleagues.
Women and the future of stem
Although a higher percentage of women receive bachelor degrees than their male counterparts today, women involved in STEM fields/careers such as the technology industry are still widely unrepresented, compared to areas in medicine and the life sciences.
Director of Engineering Facebook’s Jocelyn Goldfein argues that a lack of female involvement in tech fields is due to the lack of role models in the discipline.
The reason there aren’t more women computer scientists is because there aren’t more women computer scientists. -Jocelyn Goldfein, Director of Engineering of Facebook
As this discrepancy is becoming more transparent, more efforts are being allocated towards closing this gender gap in science. However, larger strides need to be taken to diversify the STEM workplace. The large strides in science we’ve already taken have been due to female scientists throughout history taking those steps, contributing to the empowerment of women in science everywhere.
With that said: to all the women who have contributed their skills in STEM, we sincerely thank you for your hard work and diligent efforts in the name of science.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES TO CONSULT
- Million Women Mentors
- Society for Canadian Women in Science & Technology
- Association for Women in Science
- Expanding Your Horizons Network
- Women in Nuclear Global
- Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World
Renee C. has received her B.Sc. in Honours Life Sciences at McMaster University. She loves educating others about different topics in science, and has developed a passion for scientific outreach. When she’s not writing articles for Hemtecks, she’s either volunteering or checking her social media accounts every 20 minutes. Along with Tiffany (Tianhemtecks), she also facilitates the blog’s Facebook page.