7 answers

Do women face any challenges in STEM fields?

Asked Canton, Michigan

As an aspiring doctor, I feel like I should know if I am getting myself involved in a career that may hold certain gender discrimination. Do women still face challenges in the STEM field?


7 answers

Mariana’s Answer


Hi Hanan, there's no easy answer to this one. There is still a lot of workplaces where there's a gap and we have to admit it. Organizations are taking a great deal in overcome this not just because of their perception (which counts a lot) but because is proven that a diverse group performs way much better. So, yes. There's a gender gap, we are not 50/50 completely. See the board of directors of any IT company. The great part is that, we're together in this and everything that other women have done, we're living it. I'm sure you will make a difference in the industry.

Mariana recommends the following next steps:

  • Prepare yourself and always give a little extra
  • Be bold and speak for youself
  • Help others and taking them along with your success
  • Try to find a scolarship to go to Simmons in Boston

Tanya’s Answer

Updated Portland, Oregon

I see that you are thinking about being a doctor for your career! Really cool! I'm proud of you for thinking ahead to the obstacles you might face.

Currently, general practitioners in the US are about 50/50* with respect to men and women. That gender ratio is less equal when you examine doctors with specialities. When gender ratios are not equal, that does mean that there are biases that folks will need to face to navigate their profession.

I think, at first, it's going to be difficult in the ways that is difficult for everyone. You'll have to take some tough math classes. You'll have to take some tough science classes, like Physiology and Anatomy. But every once in a while, something dark will happen that will take you by surprise. A older professor might say something like, "Why are you working so hard? Why not just get married?" Another student will say to you, "You just got in this school because you are a girl." I give these particular examples because they are things that actually happened to me while getting my PhD in STEM.

As you make advances in your career, there will be more little things like this that take you by surprise. I can't guess what they will be, because I'm not a medical doctor, but looking at the gender ratios in some specialties, I can't say there will be none.

But you will learn to navigate these obstacles. You will find a group of friends and colleagues that take you to ice cream when something terrible happens. You will finish the class from that awful professor and try never to take another class from them. You will learn amazing things and have a great impact on your patients.

But I can't lie. There are gonna be moments of yucky bias.

I wish you all the luck in the world.


Prerna’s Answer

Updated Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Great Question!

I totally understand the thought process behind asking this question and hence I am answering accordingly. Yes, STEM has lesser number of women compared to other fields . That's the more the reason to encourage women to join STEM fields.

Having said that , every job has its fair share of prejudices and cons. Be rational and practical.

If you are passionate about learning and working in STEM field , don't let your gender be a roadblock. Decide exactly which vertical you want to join and how you want to progress in your career then focus on that and go about it.

As long as you keep learning and excel at your job , anyone else's prejudice shouldn't be a cause of concern.

Karen’s Answer

Updated Sunnyvale, California

Women certainly face challenges in STEM fields. In most tech/science fields women are in the minority and you may experience self-imposed imposter syndrome as a psychological effect of simply being in the minority. Secondly, you may encounter unfair projections and gender biases. I don't think you should let these challenges deter you from a career in STEM, however. You are equally as entitled to a lucrative, rewarding career in STEM as men and deserve a fabulous career! It may take a little extra work to plant some seeds, network, and bolster yourself psychologically and emotionally to steady yourself against the challenges but the rewards are worth it!

Karen recommends the following next steps:

  • Attend networking events and meet other women in STEM. I highly recommend the Grace Hopper Conference and joining organizations like Women Who Code.
  • Find a female mentor who has had a successful STEM career and meet with her regularly to get advice about the challenges you face.
  • Focus on the work to override the imposter syndrome you may experience as a minority. When you identify your goals and achieve mastery with small wins and successes over time, you will naturally grow in confidence and garner the respect of your colleagues as well.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't be afraid to speak up. Don't over apologize. The squeaky wheel gets the most grease and it is okay to be forward and direct about what your needs are and what you want to achieve in your career.

Jenny’s Answer

The fact of the matter is that gender discrimination is everywhere. You can't escape it by taking a more "typically female" role. I wouldn't suggest limiting yourself in your career options in an effort to protect yourself from inevitable gender bias and challenges. I would suggest developing a strong network of female friends on a similar career path who can hold you up and support you, listen to you, encourage you, and even hold you when things get rough and unfair and challenging. Also, seek out workplaces where diversity and inclusion are priorities. Interview women and other minorities in potential places of work to get a feel for whether they feel respected there and have a sense of belonging. Some places are better than others — spend the effort to seek out people that will value you — they're out there. Most of all, know your own worth. Develop personal practices that ground you. Surround yourself with people who can remind you when you forget.

Amaris’s Answer

Updated Mexico City, Mexico

From my own experience, I can tell you: there are fewer and fewer challenges that you could have in these careers as a woman, and although they were classified as "men areas", this statement is no longer valid, now we can have positions of leadership and management in these fields given the skills and competencies that each one has demonstrated to have, I've been in my company for only 3 years and I'm already a leader in the development team for cellular networks. I think that if you do what you are passionate about and you are good at it, there is no challenge that will be different from the regular challenges of any new job: the learning curve, the growth within a company, the certifications if necessary for a position higher, etc.

Dana’s Answer

Great question!

From my personal experience of 12+ years in Finance, following a PhD in Economics, I can honestly say that I never felt discriminated against through the years. I do have to say though that I was lucky to work for companies that emphasized gender equality in their management policies. So, my bottom line answer is that it depends on the company you choose to work for.

Dana recommends the following next steps:

  • A STEM degree is an asset and we need more women in STEM. Do not let fear of discrimination stop you from pursuing a STEM degree, if that is what you are interested in.
  • Once you are ready to apply for a job and go through the interview process, interview them as well and make sure the company values align with yours.