Celebrating Women in STEM during Women’s History Month 2021

Celebrating Women in STEM during Women’s History Month 2021

Women and their contributions to America society have been celebrated annually in March since 1981, when Ronald Reagan approved Congress’ request to proclaim the week of March 7 as “Women’s History Week1. After half a decade of celebrating women in this fashion, the National Women’s History Project petitioned for the week to be expanded nationally

Women and their contributions to America society have been celebrated annually in March since 1981, when Ronald Reagan approved Congress’ request to proclaim the week of March 7 as “Women’s History Week1. After half a decade of celebrating women in this fashion, the National Women’s History Project petitioned for the week to be expanded nationally into Women’s History Month and Congress passed the resolution1.

In honor of all that women are, do, and provide, Capitol Tech is celebrating influential women in STEM all throughout the month of March. Last year, Capitol Tech profiled prolific women such as Dr. Nina Tandon, Dr. Gloria Hewitt, and Edith Clarke in a series of short biographies focused on each woman’s contributions to their respective field.

Despite such well-known women as the ones mentioned above and their important contributions, women remain underrepresented in STEM.

According to a January 2021 article posted to the US government’s census website, women make up 27% of STEM workers as of 2019 despite comprising 48% of the overall workforce2. Women were well-represented in some STEM fields such as math and life science comprising 47% and 45% of these respective fields, however when it comes to “computer and engineering occupations which made up the largest portion (80%) of the STEM workforce…women represented only about a quarter of computer workers and 15% of those in engineering occupations.2

The lack of female representation in STEM has real world consequences even for those who are not in a science, technology, engineering, or math field. These consequences were reflected in a 2018 survey when over 91% of the 1,000 American participants couldn’t name a famous female tech leader and of the remaining 8.3% who claimed they could name one, over 4% instead named Google’s “Alexa” or Apple’s “Siri”3. In comparison, nearly 60% of participants in the same survey were able to name a male tech leader3. This survey points to two issues with the lack of diversity in STEM: 1) women aren’t going into STEM fields as readily as their male counterparts and 2) the women who are in STEM and attain leadership positions aren’t as publicized or heralded for their contributions making them less known.

The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) found that more women than men leave their lucrative STEM jobs for various reasons including, but not limited to childcare, marginalization due to gender, and gender discrimination4. The Society suggests several ways that STEM organizations and the field as a whole can ensure female workers feel valued and safe in their roles including offering implicit bias training which allows people to identify, confront, and overcome biases against a group or groups of people based on subconscious beliefs, many of which are instilled through society. The SWHR also recommends introducing balanced and diverse committees to make and review decisions, hosting mentoring programs to establish support systems, and promoting work-life balance4.

This month, Capitol Tech will delve into the lives, brilliant minds, and contributions of female STEM leaders who have impacted not only their field, but the world around them in meaningful ways. And just so it doesn’t come as a shock, none of the women in Capitol Tech’s series of biographies will be named “Alexa” or “Siri”.

Resources

  1. The Library of Congress. March is Women’s History Month. Retrieved from https://womenshistorymonth.gov/about/.
  2. Martinez, A., & Christnacht, C. (2021, January 26). Women Making Gains in STE< Occupations but Still Underrepresented. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/01/women-making-gains-in-stem-occupations-but-still-underrepresented.html
  3. Zara, C. (2018, March 20). People were asked to name women tech leaders. They said “Alexa” and “Siri”. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/40547212/people-were-asked-to-name-women-tech-leaders-they-said-alexa-and-siri.
  4. Society for Women’s Health Research. (2020, March 25). The Importance of Engaging and Supporting Women in STEM. Retrieved from https://swhr.org/the-importance-of-engaging-and-supporting-women-in-stem/.
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