The STEM Stigma

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  • 2 min read




plural: stigmas/stigmata

a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

Over the past couple of years, the world has encountered a plethora of unforeseen challenges. Overshadowed by the glaringly obvious climate adversities and the struggle for sustenance (mental and occupational) through a global lockdown, there have been certain other issues that have been ever-existent through decades. Among others, sexism has been one such rampant issue. Over time, it has morphed into countless dimensions, trickling down through societal norms that women faced daily. A majority of actions, beliefs, habits were woven with an undertone of discrimination. Although various revolutions have overturned things for the better in the last few years, there are still a few obstacles that need tending to.
One such issue is that of the STEM industry. On average, there is 1 female student for every 7 male students in STEM universities. I graduated from KJ Somaiya, one of India’s premier institutions, and I was one of 11 women in a class of approximately 80 students. This is a minuscule observation. Let’s look at a slightly bigger picture, shall we? The Global Gender Gap Report calculated a gender parity of 68.6%. In cloud computing, just 12% of professionals are women. Similarly, in engineering and Data and AI, the numbers are 15% and 26% respectively. In Marketing today 41% of Digital Specialists are women, yet 53% of those in the talent pipeline are female. Such figures suggest there is scope to expand the share of women employed as Data Scientists and Digital Specialists. In terms of economic participation, this gender gap will take approx. 257 years to close (compared to 202 years in the 2019 report). There are 72 countries where women are barred from opening bank accounts or obtaining credit. This is a likely result considering the severe lack of representation in emerging roles. Given the odds, it is highly unlikely that the numbers will match anytime soon. However, as daunting as these statistics look, slowly but surely, circumstances have turned a new leaf.

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Clearly being a woman in STEM sounds like a road less travelled, but there are ample examples of how these gaps can be filled on an individual level. Being a woman in STEM, I grasped very early on, that a few key learnings go a long way. Here are some that might help:

(Sidenote: These tips are free of any gender requirement, they just hail from a female lens)

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The stigma around the percentages of women in leadership roles as compared to men is tangible on a global level. But as a woman who has admired countless strong women growing up, and aims to work in STEM all her life, I can confidently say that this gap is a matter of a few untaken steps. Logic building, algorithm solving, structured programming does not care for chromosomes. If the first step on the moon was a man, the first step on another could be a woman. After all, if women take as many steps ahead as men do, progress will benefit exponentially.

Some resources and useful links to more pieces that address similar challenges :