It is not new information that women experience sexism in the science field. For many, this is “normal” and there cannot be change until there are more women in the field, right? However, no one seems to be talking about the experiences women in the science field have to deal with on a daily basis that contribute to women changing their majors or not gaining recognition. I am not a science major myself, but I am writing this for all the women in the science department here at JMU and at other universities that have to encounter uncomfortable and derogatory circumstances in their classes.
My best friend is a senior engineering major here at JMU and there is not a day that goes by that she does not complain about the misogyny she experiences in her classes by peers and professors. Here are some of her real-life experiences:
- Getting called up after class by (multiple) professors because she looked “angry” when she was just listening; “just smile, don’t look like you want to hurt me”
- Professors using females in examples/depictions as weaker and less capable than men
- Male peers not doing group work and expecting her to finish the work, yet the males still receive full credit
- Professors not explaining class material at office hours because she “should get it already”
- Professors suggesting she should switch majors because it is “hard for women in the science field to succeed”
These are just a few examples of what my friend encounters every time she goes to class or office hours. That is her reality and the reality for most women in science departments across American universities. A female computer science major at Stanford recounted synonymous experiences in an article from 2015, where she wrote of her discomfort and disrespect from comments made by male peers, professors, and co-workers. Some of those experiences included being told “girls don’t code because they’re, you know, artsier”; men co-workers group chatting pick-up lines; being cornered outside by a stranger when leaving office hours; and being told her dress and tone of voice are “distracting”.
THIS IS OBSURDITY.WE ARE ADULTS.
Recent studies have been conducted that have investigated why there are so few women in the STEM field. One study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that even though there may be no overt biases or sexist beliefs, the Implicit Association Test (IAT) found that over 70% of test takers associated science with “male” and art with “female”. This unconscious level of bias is not being discussed and the blame lies on the fact that women in science have historically been overlooked despite their findings. This is not a new problem and “more women in the science field” would help if they were not put in such uncomfortable and derogatory situations. Women encounter more barriers in this field to gain respect and recognition than any other field due to such sexist stereotypes that have been carried on and uncontested for decades.
Wake up STEM department. Women are not going anywhere. Start acting like it.