by Hayley Golden
Women make up more than half of the population and almost half of the workforce in America, and yet, according to the United States Department of Commerce, less than 25 percent are represented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields (as of November 2017).
This mind-boggling statistic has led many to question the unequal representation of women in the STEM fields. “In my generation, we were not encouraged in science. We were told that our role was English and social studies and we weren’t smart enough, so that started a decline that we’re just now starting to pull up,” science teacher and Science Club moderator Mrs. Stacy Tunink said.
Even today, when gender equality has become a big topic of conversation, women continue to be underrepresented in the STEM fields. However, many are calling for change. “For so long the higher paid and higher educated jobs always belonged to the males. It was believed that the men should make the money and women should care for the children. Now that women have been making huge strides in the workforce, there have been more females in the STEM fields. However, we are still greatly underestimated. But now girls are growing up in a society that encourages them to follow their dreams no matter how difficult, which I think is really cool,” senior and president of the Science Club Maggie Mullen said.
Junior Mary Watson notes that women add a different perspective in the STEM fields, and are vital for reaching new innovations. “I do think that women and men think a little bit differently. When we collaborate in any field, the results are far better than if only one gender contributed, and I think people in STEM fields should keep this in mind,” Watson said.
To help combat this underrepresentation, girls at Marian have been given the opportunity to join classes and activities like coding, SAME (The Society of American Military Engineers) Club, Science Club and Robotics Club, to name a few.
Senior Emilee Braun, who was a TAR (technology aide resource) for Spring 2017 and the Fall 2018, notes that coding class has paved the way for her love of coding. “It can be complicated for some people, and it’s not for everyone, but I find it interesting,” Braun said. “There are different ways to get the outcome of the program, and it’s interesting to see the different ways people get the outcome.”
Tunink said that STEM classes offer benefits to more than just the STEM fields. “I think no matter what you’re going into, STEM classes are beneficial because they teach problem-solving skills and reasoning and stuff better than a lot of other classes. They create a great base for anything you want to go into, whether it’s STEM related or not,” Tunink said.
Braun notes that STEM has affected her in numerous ways through different innovations. “Practically everything in my day-to-day life was developed from people in the STEM fields,” Braun explained. “I feel that STEM has opened up the world to question how far we can truly go. I am able to apply for college or apply for scholarships without writing everything out because of STEM and I am able to bake lots of treats for my family and friend because of STEM. It’s a matter of perspective on how it affects you and the people around you.”
Though the STEM world may sound like a big undertaking, Mullen says that anyone can do it. “I think people should know that there are many categories and jobs that involve STEM. Just because you don’t like a certain science doesn’t mean you won’t prosper in the STEM field,” Mullen said.
Although being a woman in a male-dominated career can be intimidating, Mullen and Watson ultimately believe that it provides determination, empowerment and a hard work ethic. “To me, it is empowering since females are not represented equally in the STEM field. It makes me want to pursue being in STEM even more. I believe that with resilience, females will soon be well represented throughout all STEM fields,” Mullen said.
“Being a woman in the STEM field has encouraged me to work hard in my science and math classes and be open about what I want to do with my life,” Watson said.
Overall, women in STEM are continuing to make waves and crush stereotypes. Both Watson and Mullen would like to make contributions in the STEM world. “I’d like to help as many people as I can. There are many professions that care for others, but I think through the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, there are so many interesting and powerful ways to do so,” Mullen said.
Watson agrees, saying “I just want to be able to help people, one at a time,” Watson explained. “If I can lead the way for other women after me, that would be great, too.”