Writer: Jiya Jindal
Editor: Radhiah Auni
Graphic Designer: Maulina Gheananta
Science and education has been at its peaks in recent years and humans are propelling themselves to unravel new mysteries through it every single day. Women are also progressing as science is. In the past, women were held under the constant constraint of gender and society norms in showing their contribution to the scientific realm, but as the world progressed, women got more and more opportunities to showcase their talent and make the field their own.
Gender should not be the finelines of defining careers and goals. Historically, women were subjected to much oppression and challenges in this notion. Statistically speaking, women today comprise 47% of the total workforce in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) (Randstad, 2023). This number had been exponentially rising since the 1970s, where it was just 8% to begin with. Women had made their mark in the community by stepping up into a male dominated field and pursued their dreams, making greater strides as time passed by. From the 1970s till 2023, the gender gap in STEM fields has significantly reduced. Stereotypically, the men-dominated field held women working in it as a taboo, but now women share equal opportunities as men do.
The root cause of less women in STEM historically could be linked to lack of role models in the past and the conflicting gender roles. Women in the past were stereotyped to be homemakers and ideally taking care of the family. Seeing less women in the workforce, young women were apprehensive to call the field their own, further showing less participation. As compared to the past, women today show equal representation in STEM and related fields, which links to the active participation of women in the field today. Another potential issue was sexism in the field. Starting at university level, professors looked down at women in the past and believed that women comprised less natural talent as compared to men (WGU, 2019). This factor also demotivated women to pursue the field and back out. Sexism was such an issue that women were offered less hourly wages at the workplace causing them to feel inferior of themselves. Although the issues pertained, we must thank women who had the courage to defy those problems and give the women opportunities they have in their hand today.
One of the first women revolutionaries in STEM was Marie Skłodowska Curie. During the 1900s, she was the only woman Nobel Prize winner in not just one, but two fields: Physics and Chemistry. She developed her theory in radioactivity and invented mobile radioactivity, which was used to alleviate French soldiers during World War I. She became a role model for many women scientists in that era, fueling more women to pursue the field and discover something. Another woman who overcame the barrier of sexism was Katherine Johnson. With her mathematical knowledge, she helped NASA’s crew land on the Moon in 1969. She worked with a whole male team to fulfill the aim, but remained determined to help and make a difference for the women in her community. Later, President Barack Obama recognized her and gave her Presidential Medal of Freedom in order for her brevity and intellect in helping the crew.
These women and many more had pushed themselves out of their comfort zones to make a difference in shaping the world, which we live in today. Today, women are amplified for the many opportunities they have at hand, and all the credit goes to the discoveries of women in the past who proved to the world that women have the capabilities to work in a male oriented setting and prosper. Together, women have progressed as time went by to a stronger unit in the notion of STEM and related fields.