The Advancements of Women in STEM

May Nguyen

Embracing human nature means constantly innovating and creating things never seen before. The rapid speed at which we advance society allows STEM to rise above other fields of work. Unfortunately, STEM is notorious for its unbalanced gender ratio. That does not mean the effort to transform and diversify has stopped. Here is a look into how work by women, for women, allows them to reclaim their deserving space and thrive outside of statistics.

Passion for STEM sparks at an early age for many people, and that passion continues to affect their future throughout high school. Junior Neha Muramalla says, “Ever since I was a kid, I have always been inclined towards math-y stuff, and it is something I love doing, so [STEM] is an easy choice for me.” She and many other students take advantage of the opportunities offered at IHS like robotics and AP classes to explore careers in STEM. Murumalla advises students worried about the male-dominated environment, saying, “I would try not to think about the gender ratio but more about whether STEM brings you happiness. If you feel fulfilled doing something, I suggest looking into joining.” Some girls view the gender ratio as a challenge to prove themselves. Freshman Alayna Espinosa says, “I do not think I care. The fact that STEM is male dominated makes it motivating to earn the title of being a woman in STEM.” However, she still finds STEM overwhelming. Espinosa explains, “The fear of failure plays a big part in my worry about doing STEM. I feel outmatched in these environments.” Upperclassmen in clubs are aware of this and are working towards making someone new to STEM feel more comfortable. Muramalla says, “Remember that when everyone starts in STEM, we all suck and build from the ground up to understand these concepts, no one is perfect.” It is all about learning and not shying away from collaboration.

Expanding STEM knowledge does not have to stop in high school. More women are pursuing higher education to put what they learn into practice and make a real impact on the world. Senior Doetri Ghosh says, “My hope in the future is to study computer science or engineering, with the goal being using STEM to resolve certain issues, like making accessible software for those who otherwise would not be able to afford higher-end devices.” Colleges across the country support ambition like this by creating ways to make education and entering the professional world easier, with one example being Stanford University. According to Stanford News, Professor Margot Gerritsen runs a network of data science conferences that features women speakers. She says, “We do not just want work with women at the exclusion of others. We do want to promote outstanding work by outstanding women and show women they are not alone in this field.” There are also student-run groups aimed at networking and making personal connections with those having the same interests.

Women who are not directly involved can support STEM by being knowledgeable and giving credit where it is due. Women in STEM can be a source of inspiration and fulfill missing gaps for successful female representation. Former President Barack Obama’s “The Untold History of Women in Science and Technology” is an archive that memorializes women overlooked in history and offers resources to further research. If someone is not a fan of reading, movies and documentaries are excellent choices. Outlook India is one of many websites displaying their suggestions for these media. Once you start discovering and being in awe of these women, you will never want to stop. Ghosh says, “I am a big science fiction fan; I think it is one of the reasons why I am going into STEM.” Ghosh goes on to explain how it exposed her to new options. She adds, “seeing Nichelle Nichols playing Uhura from star-trek, a woman of color in STEM, within a sci-fi show is inspiring. I watched it in middle school and thought, ‘Maybe I want to be a woman in STEM just like her.’” Empowering women of color lessen racial inequality, an imbalance within the general women in STEM gaps. According to Teach for America, Black women make up 8.6 percent of the female STEM workforce, Latinas 7.9 percent and American Indian/Alaska Native women account for only 0.3 percent. It is important to recognize that while a group is marginalized, the people within that group do not have the same privileges, meaning there will be a gap within an existing one.

One misconception is that STEM only benefits people concentrated in one of its subgroups. Sophomore Jennie Long says “STEM changed the way I look at the world and how I approach problems. I learn to formulate my thoughts better when I am explaining something or writing.” STEM can also boost social abilities. Ghosh explains, “Being a part of clubs and leadership roles means I learn to get other students excited about STEM and how to talk to different people since there is a diverse group of people working together.” These skills are the basis for life-long success.

To conclude, your contributions matter! Whether it is hands-on STEM or supporting from the sidelines, being present shows that you care about women in STEM and are willing to help propel the field. Look around today and wonder, “What invention that helps me daily can be attributed to a woman in STEM?”