By Nicole Kim, Guest Blogger July 24, 2015
As a daughter of a biochemist, I’ve always been interested in the sciences. From the ages of eight to twelve, I wanted to be a biochemical engineer, with little knowledge of what the job actually entailed. It never occurred to me that this was unusual– that if I decide to pursue a career as a biochemical engineer, I would be working alongside many men but very few women.
Women make up half of the national workforce and earn more bachelor’s and master’s degrees than men. Even so, women constitute a mere 26 percent of the science workforce. Although this number has seen a dramatic increase since 1970, when only seven percent were women, the gender gap does still exist.
We should care about the gender gap in STEM-related professions, regardless of whether we find science interesting or tiresome.
We should care about the gender gap in STEM-related professions, regardless of whether we find science interesting or tiresome. The fact is that the lack of representation of women in the sciences has impacted the quality of health care and also means there is untapped potential for scientific development.
For instance, it has only been 25 years since cardiologists learned that women exhibit symptoms of heart disease that are drastically different than men. But before then, countless women were misdiagnosed for their heart disease and most likely experienced fatal consequences for the incorrect treatment.
With that being said, could this conclusion have been reached earlier if there was gender equality in the scientific workplace? Possibly. But one thing is certain: in male-dominated fields of study, like cardiology, it can be easy to develop a male-centric view that puts women in the peripheral. As a result, women face disadvantages like inadequate health care.
image via blog.iat.com
A few months ago, I got an opportunity to teach science and math to girls from low-income families at my local elementary school. There, I met Ashley, a fourth grader who loves One Direction and carries a math binder with a comically large Minion drawn on the cover. She sat in the front of the class and decorated the margins of my handouts with comments like, "This problem was really fun to solve!" and "More problems about the solar system, please."
Seeing her apparent interest and knack for science and math, I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Ashley told me she wanted to be a scientist, but “never really saw a girl-scientist before” so was unsure of her decision.
I hope that girls everywhere will realize that their gender does not correlate with weakness; being a girl should not limit her from pursuing a dream that she has, whether it is related to the sciences or not. For Ashley, I believe that her eagerness to learn and her enthusiasm in class will help her take the first steps in overcoming the gender gap, which once seemed as wide as a fault, but is slowly closing upon itself.
What are your ideas for encouraging more girls (and women!) to pursue a career in the sciences? Tell us below!
Nicole is a high school student who believes in the importance of empowering girls within her own community and advocating for girls’ rights. She loves journalism, swimming, watching films, and reading the New Yorker.
Every girl is a work in progress. If you need more help, click here.