2018 Women in Engineering Empowerment Essay – Mallory Weininger

I could speak to the fact that women are heartily underrepresented in STEM fields, yet it would be a travesty to ignore the reason behind the fact. Our society undervalues women. Women’s skills and achievements are not hindered by our sex, nor are our brains smaller or less capable. How do we remedy the egregious mistake of excluding our sex from the prestigious STEM fields? We start teaching girls about their history and we inform them they can do even better. To get to the root of our under representation, we must start at our beginning and neutralize the issue before it can arise.

In order for women to enter STEM fields, they must have an interest in these subjects to begin with. There are many middle school and high school programs to ensure the participation of girls in math and science, however, I think they should also be taught about important women who have excelled in these fields. In Technology and Culture, an article by Jennifer S. Light titled “When Computers were Women” tells the story of the forgotten and cast aside women who worked to create and advance the field of computer science. History wants to forget what women can do, but we will never stop achieving and innovating as long as we exist, and it is essential to remind young girls of this fact. The movie Hidden Figures is just the beginning of learning about the greatest cover up of human intelligence: the erasure of women. Therefore, we must teach them about ancient accomplishments by women, teach them Marie Curie, about Jane Goodall, of unknown and unnamed women from history, and show them how much women have done.

While the message itself is important, the person delivering the message is also crucial.  The Society for the Psychology of Women published an article “The Influence of Female Role Models on Women’s Implicit Science Cognitions” on how having a female professor or female role model impacted their thoughts and feelings about STEM fields. They found that not only do more women have an inclination to enter these fields, but they help dismiss the masculine stereotype which prevails in the STEM fields. Even if girls are put into rigorous science and math programs, it will not be as meaningful if they do not have female teachers to guide them further in these disciplines.  

Not only do we have to shape how women view STEM fields, we must also enable our society to accept and acknowledge women in these fields. Because of our society’s prejudice, education is once again the answer. We need to educate the population of how capable women are, and how promising the future will look with such diverse thoughts and minds working in our most advanced fields. We are on the right path with the number of women in STEM fields continuing to rise, therefore I believe implementing a plan to incorporate more female teachers into STEM fields will be simple and will have a monumentally positive effect on women and the STEM disciplines for future generations.