Answering the sexism in STEM question September 27, 2016Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, feminism, science, societal commentary.
Tags: feminism, sexism, women in engineering, women in science
I’m not a big fan of career panels for women in science, at least for those in college and above. However, panels of women in STEM careers for high school students and younger, I think, are important, primarily because they show young women that there are other women who are scientists and mathematicians and engineers, even if they do nothing else. Being able to identify with a panelist because of sex/gender is going to go a long way to breaking down stereotypes.
I was involved in one such panel over the past weekend. I was one of three women who has a career using math outside of being a mathematician, and we were talking to high school students about our careers in math-intensive fields.
I feel awkward when the question comes up (and it always does) about whether one encounters sexism as a woman in a STEM field. I don’t want to say anything discouraging, nor do I want to lie. I also get nervous, worrying that I may be the only one who has had to deal with it. I was fortunate this weekend in that all three of us seemed to have a range of experience dealing with this, but we were all able to say that it was not the majority of the time. Yes, we told them, you’re going to run into it, but it’s primarily a handful of individuals who are that way. Most of the time, you’ll be treated as respectfully, as a colleague. And unlike in the past, if you find you’re dealing with more of it than you want to, there are a lot more opportunities to find a career in greener, less sexist pastures. We all agreed the situation had improved significantly in the past twenty years.
That being said, I would really like to stand in front of a group like that and say, no, it doesn’t matter and you won’t see it. I suspect I will be waiting a long time, but I keep hoping.