Women and Inequality in STEM – A Perspective

I recently read an article stating that there was really no need to either subsidize or otherwise provide financial relief or incentive to get women into STEM careers.  Of course, I first have to state that the article was written by a man — I can’t even conceive of a woman writing such a piece.

I’m not really sure where to begin with this, but really the first thing that comes to mind is “Why are men so threatened by the presence of women in any field?”  Most men, of course, have no issue with the idea of a woman in a STEM branch like nursing or dietitian, but when it comes to areas such as architecture and engineering, they balk at the idea of women entering them, as if by choosing to pursue her passion and talents, she is somehow disadvantaging a man somewhere.  I remember back in the 1990s when my then boyfriend was attending electrical engineering and he had a female lab partner, his “concern” that she would get married and have babies and not use her certification; I responded with my concern that he did not share the same concern for his male classmates.  I understand that at many colleges and universities there are often a shortage of open positions for those who genuinely wish to pursue them, and that there is a great deal of competition.  What I do not understand is why those who are truly there for science and who welcome scientific learning and competition should feel at all uneasy about females being among their ranks.

The article basically stated that “we don’t need to have financial assistance or incentives for women in STEM; if they really wanted to be there, they would be.”

Really.  My goodness; there must be the source of all of women’s woes!  We simply DON’T WANT scientific careers.  Despite the outcry among scientists following Nobel prize winner Tim Hunt’s egregious comments about females in the lab, and despite study after study demonstrating STEM’s male bias, including the fact that assuming a female does manage to find the funding to get through school in her chosen field, she may just be forced out via sexual harassment  or isolation and blackballing.

This doesn’t even BEGIN to address the social stresses most females attending primary education face well before they are forced to make career decisions, and it doesn’t even touch on issues like financial inequality.

Frankly, men who own homes and have pensions and are comfortable enough to be uncomfortable about the state of their RRSPs really should NOT be weighing in on this matter, because they are silencing the voices of those who have struggled for so long to be heard – the voices of women in STEM, the voices of those who wish to be part of it, and the voices of those who have struggled with the male dominated issues enough to guide the rest of us.

I fail to understand how the empowerment of any group in any way endangers the real position of another — unless perhaps the group fearing the loss of power knows they only have it because they have an unfair bias in their favour and are afraid that the empowered will treat them as unfairly as they were treated.

Perhaps it is that they cannot comprehend having their entire value to society being judged by the size of fat globules which adhere to the muscle wall of their chest, or that when they have children or life events occur, they receive congratulations and fist bumps, rather than concern that their family will prevent them from working, or outright being encouraged to abort rather than disrupt the work culture?

Perhaps they cannot wrap their minds around the idea that a professional female scientist could be sexually assaulted on her way to work on transit, and it wouldn’t even raise a ruckus or a stir in the public mind, except perhaps to criticize what she was wearing to “encourage” it.

Perhaps they cannot understand what it is like to be in Jr. High and be PUNISHED by your school system for being “too smart for a girl” and being forced to sit in and attend chemistry class with the very boys who threaten to molest you on a daily basis.

Perhaps they never experienced being called out in the hallway in the middle of class over concerns that “this isn’t really a class for a girl; if I give you good marks they will think something funny is up; if I give you bad marks, I’m picking on you — You will need to work three times as hard as anyone in this room for an average mark.”

Perhaps they’ve never known what it’s like to be told “You’d be so perfect if only you would stop talking,” or accused of using sex to get ahead when you relied only on your mind and grit your entire life.

And they will never know.  Because nature decided, for whatever reason, to make them male.  But perhaps one day they will understand the struggle their female friends endure, and stop putting additional roadblocks in the way.

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