Women's Views on Women in STEM
It is common knowledge that the majority of workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields are men. SUNY Poly’s 66:34 male:female ratio is a testament to this fact. Studies were taken to determine why this gender gap is, and countless articles have been written on the subject. The outcome of these works is always similar, claiming that discrimination against women in professional fields causes young women to avoid STEM majors. I was appalled by this information and asked some colleagues in the Computer Science program about their experiences being women in a STEM field. The responses I received were surprising, to say the least.
To research for this article, I interviewed students in the Computer and Information Science department here at SUNY Poly. Most asked to not have their names published, but Ariana held no such sentiment. Ariana stated repeatedly throughout our conversation that no person or organization pushed her towards becoming a CS major and she had chosen her path on her own accord. She had never encountered a negative stereotype or sexist situation, and even stated that “People who have employed me or the professors who have taught me have always treated me with the same respect they give to males in the field.” When I asked Ariana about the lack of women in STEM fields, she sighed before responding:
“I think it's a load of **** that women get special treatment in the STEM field just for being women. Women don't need to babied and told that they need to do something in STEM just because there is a lot men in that field, women can decide for themselves without all the specialty. I don't see people trying to make women join jobs in other areas that contain more physical work and are basically run by men like truck drivers, carpenters, Brick masons, garbage collectors, et cetera.”
Ariana believed that the lack of young women’s interest in STEM fields was just that: a lack of interest. She went on to state that it is not necessarily a problem that women avoid STEM. They just want to do something else with their lives. Towards the end of the conversation, Ariana asked that I deliver a message from her to people everywhere in my article: “Women need to get some spines and begin deciding on what they want without someone else's influence.”
Astounded, I decided to ask other female computer science majors about their thoughts on initiatives to promote women in STEM. Between all the responses, a trend slowly emerged. While everyone was certain that a level of sexism existed in their field, no one I spoke to had ever encountered it. One person I talked to said that, when they were treated differently for being a woman, it was always positively. None of them thought that the lack of women in STEM pointed to a problem. They all took pride in the fact that any scholarship they had was due to hard work and dedication, not just because of their gender. Lastly, every woman I spoke with agreed that the size of the initiative to push women into STEM jobs was unnecessary.