The White house recently acknowledged that women are underrepresented in STEM fields, but women in the STEM force are trying to change that. Studies show that in order to inspire young women to pursue STEM-related careers, the best things to do are to provide early exposure to STEM programs and positive role models such as Sarah Richardson and Lydia Villa-Komaroff.
Sarah Richardson is a young scientist who specializes in synthetic biology. She has volunteered in underprivileged schools in California, and explains how she remembers people always saying to her, “You don’t look like a scientist.” As time went on, she noticed how this phrase started to affect her career. She now speaks, along with four other women, about the hurdles that young girls face in STEM-related programs and careers. Sarah makes it clear that it’s not just one challenge that girls face, it’s hundreds.
Lydia Villa-Komaroff is a scientist in the field of molecular biology who has faced challenges in her career. She has been told throughout her life she doesn’t belong in STEM. However, she still continued to pursue her interests despite the opposition. She eventually turned out to be very successful after her discovery that bacteria could be engineered to produce human insulin.
“When you think of what she faced in terms of the prejudice and some of the things she was told that women can’t do, I think she’s truly a stunning figure in the history of molecular biology.” -Jo Handelsman, Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Lack of Mentors
Many of the women who try to pursue a career in STEM often have trouble finding mentors who can help promote them. Women need role models when trying to pursue any career. They need people like them so that they can follow in their footsteps. However, in such a male dominated field, women can not seek the right people to turn to which therefore causes the gender gap to widen.
Helping Women Find Mentors
Many organizations have been created in order to assist women in pursuing their interests in STEM. Million Women Mentors, for example, is a program where women can find mentors and teachers who can help them pursue their interests. Mentors are available for young girls and women from high school to career life. Their main focus is to prevent women from exiting the STEM force.
STEM All Stars is also a similar organization which was created to eliminating gender differences and breaking the barrier of stereotypes.
By Gautham Pillai, Langley High School