2018 Women in Engineering Empowerment Essay – Max (Marie) Pisciotta

The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields are predominantly thought of as masculine fields and suffer from the underrepresentation of women. This systemic problem needs to be addressed and using strategic methods, can be remedied. Some of these strategic methods include using different language when referencing the STEM fields, promoting the skills needed for the STEM fields earlier in life, and using women already in the STEM field to show representation to the younger generation.

For some young women, the only exposure to the STEM fields they get are in the classroom. This can be detrimental for their development and their opinions surrounding these fields. Not only are they “forced” to learn this material, but they are also not necessarily represented when these lessons are taught. When important innovators are celebrated in the classroom, it is too often that only male innovators are the focus. Changing this focus to include women not only makes it more inclusive, but also presents successful women in STEM in a very positive light. Another way to emphasize that women can be successful in STEM is to replace male identities in word problems with female identities. When occupations are related to these identities, it emphasizes that women can hold the same occupations as those usually associated with men.

Additionally, when women only experience the STEM fields in the classroom, it is also the only opportunity they have to develop the required skills to be successful in these fields. This is usually different than the experience that most boys have. The major difference can be seen in the types of toys that are marketed towards each of these groups. Toys marketed towards boys have more innovative applications whereas the toys marketed towards girls have more imaginative applications. Ideally, toys for young, developing, STEM students would be balanced between these two subsets.

Lastly, it can be incredibly for young people to see people like them being high achievers. This could be accomplished by a mentorship program with women currently in the STEM fields being there to help educate and assist young women looking to get involved in the STEM fields. This could be powerful for young women to not only see how much they can achieve, but also be able to talk to mentors about barriers entering or remaining in the field and provide them with resources to better achieve their dreams.

The underrepresentation of women is a systemic issue in the STEM fields due to societal norms, lack of resources, and pre-existing stigmas surrounding these fields. Using strategies such as replacing language with more inclusive verbiage, highlighting notable women in STEM in school, making toys that have more innovative applications accessible and marketed towards women, and mentorship can be use to start changing minds about these fields. In the STEM fields, differences in perspectives are valued and therefore, it should be a logical advancement to make these fields more accessible to aspiring women.