Making Professions Gender Neutral
Feminism is not based on women having more opportunities or more advantageous rights
than men, feminism is based on equal rights independent of gender. Feminists are concerned
with breaking down stigma and stereotypes for men and women and allowing equal
opportunities. Our society engrains ideals that may no longer be useful to staying true to our
desires and expressing our authentic selves. Society tells us that a male wanting to be a stay at
home dad and a female wanting to be the sole supporter of the family is deviant because it is
abnormal. Women and men have fought for their right to gender equality and are continuing to
fight back against these traditional norms. and men to collectively work
together to achieve new feats by utilizing a collective group and goal. Throughout time women
and men have stuck together to vocalize their desire for equality and to end gender-based
discrimination. Today women are continuing to strive for equality in the workplace, including
fighting for equal pay and more representation in STEM career fields. Females are severely
underrepresented in STEM professions and gender inequality is a serious problem. There is no
reason for any career to be fit for either a woman or a man, humans should be able to work
towards their dream career independent of their gender. This paper will address gender inequality
in STEM education paths and STEM careers. Women enrolled in courses and on path to a STEM
degree may have a disadvantage due to gender roles, difficulty identifying, and stereotypes
leading to burnout.
Women working towards a career in a STEM field may feel immediately at a
disadvantage due to our societal constructs of gender roles. Gender roles are concepts engrained
into people from birth, these include concepts of masculine behavior vs. feminine behavior, and
how men behave vs. women. From a young age kids watching cartoons will see images of a male
superhero fighting battles, using his aggression and dominance to capture a submissive princess,
dressed in a pink gown. The media plays a large role in introducing gender roles, as well as ones
family and environment. According to Sociology Matters, If a young girl regularly sees female
characters on television working as defense attorneys and judges, she may believe that she
herself can become a lawyer (Schaefer 2011:190). Unfortunately, young women often do not
see female representation in career paths such as those mentioned. Most television shows feature
women as teachers, receptionists, nurses, and other feminine oriented career paths. Gender roles
can immediately defer women from entering a professional field. Some of the characteristics
instilled in a females gender role may include maintaining a home or caring for children, and
acting subdued, nurturing, and kind. This is quite contrary to those instilled in men which may
include financially supporting his family and acting confident or bold. According to the
functionalist perspective when considering a family unit, to function most effectively, the
family requires adults who will specialize in particular roles (Schaefer 2011:194). This enables
different lessons and guides to behavior, and if both parents were gender neutral, the children
may not learn affectively when to act in a feminine manner or masculine. Yet on the contrary,
when looking at gender roles from a conflict perspective Sociology Matter states, Thus, conflict
theorists see gender differences as a reflection of the subjugation of one group (women) by
another group (men)(Schaefer 2011:195). When considering the affect gender roles have on
women looking to enter STEM related fields, it may be more valuable to keep this conflict
theorists approach in the forefront. The conflict theorists approach directly connects to a
womens less likelihood to enter a STEM field. Women are often considered less than, or not fit
for these career paths. Although the functionalist perspective allows one to recognize the
advantages a feminine person may bring to a STEM related career path, when women are
inhibited, by notions of gender roles, to enter these professions the functionalist perspective does
not function as a viable option. Adopting a conflict theorists ideologies allows us to recognize
that there is a problem, and work towards a solution. Ultimately the influence gender roles have
on a female determining her profession are too massive to disregard.
Women on a pathway to STEM careers encounter a disadvantage due to an inability to
identify. Women in undergraduate and graduate programs are shown in various ways that STEM
is a male dominated career path. According to a journal on Structure and Belonging: Pathways to
success for underrepresented minority and women PhD students in STEM fields, the academic
motivation of women is negatively affected by subtle but potent environmental cues that indicate
lack of inclusivity (Fisher et al 2019:2). In my own experience at College of the Desert, while
taking the second semester of a Computer Science course, I would consistently find that the
womens restrooms were out of order or locked and I would have to walk to a separate building
to find a female restroom. In my Differential Equations class by the end of the semester the class
had about thirty students with only two of them female. This is at a community college level, and
I suspect it will only become more apparent as I continue my educational career. The inability
for women to feel as though they belong in their chosen educational and career path increases
their chances for discrimination and may lower their quality of work. When taking a
psychological look at this concept, it is noticeable that when one feels as if they are different
from a group, they may doubt themselves more. This worry and preoccupation can keep them
from producing their best work and can set themselves up for failure. Feeling insignificant in
STEM settings, in turn, led to lower perceived success and lower subjective well-being (Fisher
et al 2019:8). Ideally, as more women trudge the road of STEM fields these feelings of not
belonging and inability to identify will decrease, leading to more women feeling comfortable and
accepted in these fields.
Women on STEM related educational paths may be prone to experiencing burnout due to
a male dominated environment. Stereotypes in STEM fields may be subtle, or they may be
obvious. Different concepts may keep women from feeling accepted and welcomed into a STEM
related field as well as actions. A male dominated field may keep women feeling alienated and
lead to burnout. Women may also have a hard time identifying as a scientist or mathematician
when traditionally women are considered to not progress educationally or to have more feminine
professions. According to Identity, Campus Climate, and Burnout Among Undergraduate
Women in STEM Fields, As women experienced incongruence between their identities as
women and as scientists, they felt less competent as students(Jenson, Deemer 2019:104). In
order to combat this an educator may work towards decreasing the subtle cues and stereotypes
regarding women in male dominated fields. Few women begin an educational path towards a
career in STEM, and for those who have courageously chosen this untraditional path it is
necessary for the women to feel supported to succeed. It is difficult enough for women to begin
this path, and a negative emotional climate or inability to identify as a female and a scientist due
to gender roles is destructive to gender equality. Fortunately the journal later states that,
entering a hostile environment can also serve as a way to empower womens belief in their
ability to complete their goals( Jenson, Deemer 2019:103). Women in STEM are not involved
in STEM because they value it, they can serve a double purpose as being involved in STEM
careers in order to destroy the gender gap and strive towards equal opportunities for both
There is no valid reason for women passionate about Science, Math, and Technology to
not pursue that passion due to their gender. In a society that strongly values individuality and
self-expression it is obscene for one to feel un-welcome in a profession due to their gender.
Throughout time women and men have stuck together to address important issues like a
womans right to vote or female reproductive health rights, and now we will address and find a
solution to the unequal distribution of gender in STEM careers. In order to work towards a
solution, we must address the problem. Our society has placed too much strength on traditional
gender roles, and this leads to women not feeling comfortable seeking a profession in a topic
they are passionate about if that topic is STEM related. Women in STEM educational paths have
difficulty identifying when they feel as if they are an outlier. Women in STEM are consistently
warding off subtle cues or profound stereotypes, demeaning their ability to contribute in a STEM
field. In understanding these struggles, Americans will be able to unite in order to diminish these
issues surrounding women pursuing educational paths towards careers in Science, Technology,
and Mathematic related professions.
Schaefer Richard T. 2011. Sociology Matters, 3rd edition, Boston: Mcgraw-Hill
Jensen, L. E., & Deemer, E. D. (2019). Identity, Campus Climate, and Burnout
Among Undergraduate Women in STEM Fields. Career Development Quarterly, 67(2), 96109.
Fisher, A. J., Mendoza-Denton, R., Patt, C., Young, I., Eppig, A., Garrell, R. L.,
Richards, M. A. (2019). Structure and belonging: Pathways to success for underrepresented
minority and women PhD students in STEM fields. PLoS ONE, 14(01), 114. https://doiorg.ezproxy.collegeofthedesert.edu/10.1371/journal.pone.0209279
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