COLUMN: Our experiences as women in STEM

Discrimination stems from your appearance, your voice, your laughter or your dress. If you have a delicate, calm voice, it invites people to walk over you.

If you’re smiling, bubbly, or feminine, it’s like you don’t deserve success. If you like your hair long and your dresses short, people seem to look right through you. Your thoughts, ideas and successes can travel through air, but not through walls.

The ceiling is glass. You’re bright, kind, and creative, but that’s just not enough.

Dr. Sophia Lunt, an associate professor here at Michigan State University, shared her similar experiences of rising in the scientific world.

“The reason I first became interested in chemistry was because I realized that molecules can explain a lot of things in life,” she said.

Lunt grew up in South Korea and immigrated to the United States when he was 9 years old. She went to a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania for her undergraduate years and then earned her doctorate. from Princeton University. She obtained her post-doctorate at MIT.

“Do you know how they say there’s an iceberg?” she asked. “And at the top are the more obvious things, like sexual harassment or assault, right? But there are things under the iceberg. Like being ignored, not being invited to meetings, things like that.

“When I went to Princeton, all of a sudden I realized, ‘Oh, how come I wasn’t invited to this meeting? How come I didn’t been recommended for this scholarship? How come I was not nominated for this award?

“You’re dismissed as stupid,” Lunt said simply.

When asked for advice for other young women entering the STEM field, Lunt refers to finding the right support network. Whether it’s a partner, a best friend, or even your parents, find people who will be there for you during your endeavors.

In 2019, women made up 48% of the U.S. workforce, but only 27% of the STEM field, according to the U.S. Census.

Additionally, the gender pay gap persisted in STEM occupations, according to the U.S. Census.

These gaps are explained by the fact that already in kindergarten, girls receive the message that they are not as qualified as their male counterparts in science and mathematics.

A 2014 study found that many psychological barriers prevent women from participating in STEM.

These barriers, which begin in early childhood, include math and science discussed more openly with young boys than with young girls, greater math anxiety among female teachers, which is then associated with weaker among female students, biased beliefs about teachers’ and parents’ abilities, peer influences and media influences.

When young girls get the message that they can’t be both a woman and excel in science, whether it’s from TV examples that portray the main character as a pretty, popular girl involved in the arts with a friend nerdy, disheveled, and socially awkward who loves science to balance it out, or a teacher who implicitly believes boys are better at STEM, it impacts them, and often for the rest of their lives.

From elementary to high school, I really believed that I was not good in math or science. I believed that my male peers were much better than me. I also believed that they were more competent than the girls in my classes who excelled in the subjects.

These beliefs were unintentional, and barely realized, but still, I held them.

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Selma Cogo, first year molecular biology and biochemisery

And then there was the “bimbofification”. Subtle sexualization. When you’re 16, it’s like the world revolves around your ability to be…pretty. Being preppy and fun and happy and ready for anything. It doesn’t matter what feelings are hurt or the different ways your heart is broken. How is it fair to have beauty and intelligence stripped from these opposing sides?

I’ve always had that kind of… dogged determination. No one could tell me no. I did what I wanted and chased my dreams. At 15, I was scouted by a modeling industry and spent the most compelling years of my life being criticized, controlled and practically chased away. My boyfriend at the time and I had these huge dreams, where we would move to an agency in New York and where we would be young, beautiful and happy. I would go to school and be a model, and he would take on the world of high fashion. We would make it work. The sad truth of modeling, however, is that it pays next to nothing. Most designers pay you for your time in their clothes, and you can’t pay for college with clothes.

Therefore, I let my dream die. He left, but I had always wanted to be a doctor and I wouldn’t let anything stop that from happening. I would go to medical school in a busy and exciting city. I WAS BECOME a doctor, no matter what things I had to leave behind. It’s rather a shame that we always have to choose between the things we love.

When I got to college, I had this idea that things would be different and inadvertently better than when I was in high school. I would be considered a whole one person. But my physical appearance, it seems, will never cease to deceive people.

They would ask things like, “I thought you were going to be a party girl.

“You don’t drink? Really? You look like you want to drink. Would you like a drink? »

It gets old after a while. It was flattering, and I’m guilty of letting compliments mean too much to me, but empty words are always empty no matter how sugar coated they are.

Madison Rose, sophomore in journalism and pre-AP

Despite my lifelong dreams of being a doctor, I decided to specialize in journalism. I didn’t think I was smart enough or skilled enough to specialize in a STEM field.

I knew that in journalism I wouldn’t be able to make enough money to pay off my college loans, or even pay rent, but I also knew that I could marry a man who was planning to be a doctor, an engineer, or computer scientist. . I couldn’t be a doctor – I wasn’t good enough – but I was pretty and well versed in literature and the arts, so I knew I could marry one.

I wasn’t quite ready to give up science, so I decided to go the pre-AP route, but continue my journalism major.

In my online science classes, away from the other students, teachers, and media of my childhood, I found that I excelled in the classes and really enjoyed them. I continued to struggle in math, but if I worked hard I could do well.

Slowly I became more confident in my abilities and even started considering changing my major to STEM, but then the COVID restrictions were lifted and I came to campus for the first time.

I found myself being treated differently than my male peers in my science classes. Just recently in my chemistry lab, me and the other two girls in my group received a 3.5 on our presentation. We had lost points on body language, eye contact and speech.

The only boy in our group received a 4.0.

In college, 49.2% of women who originally intended to major in science and engineering in first year switch to a non-STEM major, compared to 32.5% of men, according to the National Science Foundation National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.

From primary school to higher education, women get the message that they can’t work in science, and they listen. Girls are criticized and categorized to the point that bright minds are too scared to emerge. Beauty becomes the kind of pain that is best never spoken of.

They want us to be pretty, but they never want us to be smart.


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