Underrepresentation in STEM: Who can women count on?

Underrepresentation in STEM: Who can women count on?

Every March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) to recognize women’s achievements in various fields all the while disclosing relevant and often alarming information about gender inequality all around the world. IWD calls for action as well. It isn’t merely a day to learn about women, the challenges they have to face, and the systematic cause of these challenges. IWD also calls for action, not only from women but from society as well. Just as the First Law of Motion says:

A society at rest will remain at rest unless an external force pushes it to start moving.

Can we really count on a male-dominated society that allowed outdated and prejudiced notions of women to persist for more than a century after the first IWD, to suddenly make a change of heart and hear out our concerns as women?

While I was writing this article, I was beside my 10-year-old sister. I asked her to name 5 scientists off the top of her head. With the help of my mother, she mentioned the following: Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, and Albert Einstein. This didn’t come as a surprise. As I grew, these were the first names I was taught in Science class. At first, I attributed this to the lack of importance placed in women’s education. However, that can’t be the only reason. From the time of Galilei (1600s) up to the time of Einstein (1900s), there were already women dabbling and eventually excelling in the field of STEM, but they never made it to our textbooks.

Marie Crous, Émilie du Châtelet, Emmy Noether, Maria Goeppert Mayer, and Youyou Tu. It’s safe to say that these names aren’t familiar to you despite having worked during  the time of the male scientists listed above. However, a quick Google search would tell you just how much these women have contributed to science and how their works have been overlooked and disregarded by society.

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, only 28% of the Science and Engineering workforce is female. This underrepresentation can be attributed to STEM’s male-dominated culture, the stereotypes surrounding the field, and the lack of role models that young girls have.

Change only comes from challenge. What should we, as women, do to ensure that progress is made? 

I think that the best place to start is where we are right now: school.

For women working in the field of education, it is crucial to encourage young girls to be confident with their intellect. We must strive to create an environment where women can excel in STEM, because this should be considered a norm instead of an anomaly. For girls who are still in school, challenge yourself to stop second-guessing your abilities because of your gender and the stereotypes surrounding it. If you’re concerned about the population of women in the STEM field you’re interested in, just think about the bright and curious minds of young girls that will soon face the same dilemma, and how they might back out of STEM for the same reason; this cycle is going to repeat itself generation after generation.

It’s easier said than done, but it is imperative for us to be proactive. There are women before us who made large strides in STEM even when the rest of the world didn’t want them to step one foot into university.

We don’t have to wait for society to change. Why should we wait? For centuries, the odds have always been stacked against us. It’s up to us to continue the spirit of persistence and grit, and embody the quiet strength that women before us have shown. We need to work together and look out for one another because who else is going to do it other than ourselves?

Who else can do it as well as we can? 

To quote Sojourner Truth, “And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne 13 children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”

Article written by Jaschia, D. (Grade 11); Feature image by Selly P. (Grade 10)

The views expressed in this article represent the personal views of the author and should not be taken to represent the views of Dragon’s Print and Cebu International School.


The STEM Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – AAUW : Empowering Women Since 1881. (2020, October 5). AAUW : Empowering Women since 1881. https://www.aauw.org/resources/research/the-stem-gap/

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