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Challenges for Women in STEM

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

As a woman in STEM myself, I have noticed several issues in this domain. While progress has been made to promote gender equality in these fields, there are still significant barriers that women encounter, which I will be debriefing in this blog post.

For one, there is underrepresentation and sometimes a lack of representation for women in STEM fields, which can cause a sense of isolation and discourage women from pursuing such careers. Without prominent role models, it can be challenging for young girls and women to envision themselves succeeding in STEM. Furthermore, women may have limited access to resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities compared to their male counterparts. This disparity can hinder their professional growth and development within the STEM field.

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Balancing family responsibilities with demanding STEM careers can be especially challenging for women. Although as a society, we are moving away from gender roles, they still do exist. Women are still expected to be the main caregivers for their children and to do more work for the household, such as grocery shopping and cooking. Long hours and inflexible work arrangements in certain STEM industries can make it difficult for women to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Some STEM workplaces can be unwelcoming or even hostile towards women, leading to lower job satisfaction and higher attrition rates. Experiences of harassment and discrimination can further deter women from pursuing or staying in STEM careers. Additionally, women can face implicit or explicit bias and stereotypes that perpetuate the belief that certain STEM fields are better suited for men. These biases can affect hiring decisions, opportunities for advancement, and the perception of women's abilities in technical roles. In the case of female scientists and researchers, they may encounter biases in academic settings, affecting their chances of obtaining funding, publishing research, or achieving leadership roles.

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Many men feel threatened by or look down on female bosses. According to polls conducted by Gallup, men prefer male over female bosses. The main reason there is a lack of women representation in the workplace is because there is a lack of powerful female leaders at the top, which means there isn't anyone to encourage, support and mentor women who have just started working. In order to have more representation and make advancements, we must make efforts to push women up and help them climb the ladder to the top in workplaces. We must ensure that they have access to valuable resources and tools so that they can succeed and make a positive impact. And when it comes to work-life balances and hostile environments, workplaces must to be understanding and there should be mandatory training regarding harassment and unfair treatment, so that this behavior can be corrected.

Addressing these challenges requires a collective effort from society, educational institutions, and employers to promote diversity and inclusion, provide equal opportunities, and challenge existing biases and stereotypes within STEM fields. Supporting and empowering women in STEM can lead to a more diverse and innovative workforce that benefits everyone.

Divya Sarkar

Purdue University:

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