Women and Science: The Stereotypes Live On

In pondering why women occupy such a small percentage of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (“STEM”) fields, Laci Green maintains that unconscious stereotyping, often by professors, leads to slights and exclusions that perpetuate the STEM gender disparity. But, there are solutions for this…

Well-intentioned efforts to encourage women in the STEM fields fall woefully short when they not only fail to challenge, but unintentionally serve to encourage, time-honored stereotypes.

  • The European Commission decided to tackle the gender disparity in the STEM fields with a “Science: It’s A Girl Thing” video aimed at women with disastrous results
  • The video featured exaggerated stereotypes of women, focusing on fashion, make-up and allure; entirely disconnected from the message of getting young women interested in science
  • The “Science: It’s A Girl Thing” video inspired such an outrage that it had to be removed
  • A Yale Study looked at the underlying rationale for the STEM disparity and the findings indicated that both male and female science professors widely looked at female undergrads as less competent, despite they’re having the same accomplishments as their male counterparts
  • As a result, they were less likely to offer the female students mentoring or a job and when they did they were paid less
  • Unconscious stereotyping leads to small slights and big exclusion
  • What can be done? Professors and parents need to be informed about the existence and effects of stereotyping and we need to acknowledge women’s accomplishments in the sciences
  • We need to give girls role models in this field and create college environments and culture that supports women in the same way that men are supported