Shattering glass ceilings: Women in STEM

Preksha+Kedilaya+and+her+robotics+team%2C+Flourish+and+Bots%2C+compete+at+the+FTC+Super+Qualifier+meet.

Theresa Barber

Preksha Kedilaya and her robotics team, Flourish and Bots, compete at the FTC Super Qualifier meet.

Nathan VanUtrecht, Copy Editor

As of 2018, women only accounted for 28 percent of the science and engineering workforce despite making up half of the college-educated workforce. What force is deterring women away from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) related careers?

PV alumni Preksha Kedilaya is attending the University of Iowa to study biomedical science, but she felt the same force that has pushed away other women. “I definitely get intimidated at times when I’m in male dominated environments, but I think that I have finally gained enough confidence to do what I want to do and not let my insecurities take over,” Kedilaya commented.

Despite getting over the intimidation of being a woman in STEM, Kedilaya still feels like her male counterparts have a significant advantage over her. “I do feel like I experience certain things that men don’t. There is a term called ‘the glass ceiling’ that accurately describes the biggest struggle women face,” she stated.

In her words, the glass ceiling is a barrier that women and other minorities face when they are in professional environments. Due to ingrained prejudices and stereotypes, these groups are viewed as less capable, so it requires more work to climb the corporate ladder.

Senior Justin Shin is planning on attending an undecided college to study mechanical engineering. During his time in STEM related events, Shin noticed the same disparities and prejudices that Kedilaya described. “Almost every STEM event I went to was dominated by males. Even when there were women, they always received condescending tones from their male counterparts,” he recalled.

Although there have been recent efforts to increase the number of women in STEM, the percentage of women in these fields was the same in both 2010 and 2018. 

Both Kedilaya and Shin feel this lack of a female presence stems from the way that STEM is being marketed towards women. “Instead of talking about benefits from being in STEM fields, they always just push the idea that they need more women in STEM,” Shin said. “It gives off a subconscious message that women don’t belong in those fields in the first place.”

Having decided that she wants to go into STEM, Kedilaya encourages other women to ignore the stereotypes and follow their dreams. “…[N]ever let your insecurities change your mind. Use your voice to demand change and proper treatment, especially in the workplace,” Kedilaya voiced.