Women in higher education have it rough; it is a harsh reality that men often feel the need to insert their opinion about what women decide to major in, as you saw in Katherine Jimenez’s post a couple weeks ago. Women in STEM face this reality a lot, even if STEM is considered “better” than humanities. STEM is generally considered to be a group of subject areas in which the classes are tougher, and those who succeed have the intelligence, resilience, and skills to do so. The men in this field never really face scrutiny; in fact, you see a lot of male role models for students in STEM to look up to, such as Bill Gates, Isaac Newton, Watson and Crick, and much, much more.
For women, however, it is a vastly different experience. Women are never taught about role models of the same gender, even though they exist in more quantities than most think. Men will question how women got to their position. They could say that she got into a school or class because of her looks or because she had sex with the professor. They could double check whether she got the facts straight or entered in data correctly. They could say she isn’t qualified at all and she should go back to the front desk where she belongs, even if she’s more qualified than all of the men in the room put together. If the woman is their boss, she could be the target of insults that mock how ambitious, focused, smart, and clever she is, even though she was taught to “think like a man” to avoid all the criticism. Either way, she loses.
I previously mentioned Watson and Crick. You may have heard about them because they, along with Maurice Wilkins, won this little thing called the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of this other thing called DNA. What you may not know is that they got help from results of x-ray crystallography data from Rosalind Franklin and her colleague Wilkins, yet Franklin was not awarded the prize. There are many more female role models, such as Marie Curie, Sally Ride, Barbara McClintock, and yet all I (and many of us) hear about are predominantly male figures in the STEM community. Women are just as qualified as men to pursue STEM and it is high time that men stop the gender bias and let them pursue STEM or any other major for that matter.
Now, do you think you know the answer to the riddle in the beginning?
-- Ricardo Canelo