Rant: The Lack of Women in STEM, from my Experience

There is a big discussion going on about the lack of women in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field. There has been a lack of women for a LONG time, and there have been many tries at a solution for this. Some have said that maybe the lack of women is due to women preferring jobs working with people. Many say it is due to outright sexism. Most are just clueless. My academic career has mainly been towards mathematics, but I was originally a physics major. (Physics and engineering have the lowest percentage of women.) In my opinion, there is a lot more going on besides sexism and gender roles.

First off, I think there are differences, at least in my society, between what is typical “woman behavior” versus “man behavior.” (I’m not saying these are genetic. I’m not qualified, and I’m not necessarily deeply concerned about psychology, for my purposes.) (The following is anecdotal, and it is not meant to be an empirical account of how all physics majors act. ) Physics, for example, is considered the brainiest subject one can go into. There is a bit of chip on the shoulder when one is doing well in these courses. Still, if one is asking a male student about a particular subject, it is common for them to be condescending. (Doesn’t matter if the questioner is male or female.)( In fact, sometimes they will give an incompetent answer due to pride, if they don’t know the answer.) If a student asks a female physics major, they are more likely to get a caring and non-egotistical reply. However, there are very few female physics majors. That has been my experience, and this huge part of the reason I switched to math.

On top of that, I have witnessed physics majors being condescending to anyone who was not a physics major. I have heard them state, to other students, that the only real science is physics, and the rest isn’t important. (This includes biology and psychology, where there are more women.)

In fact at one point, I was the only female in a particular physics class. (I expected this to happen at some point. I wasn’t bothered.) However, at times I felt stared at. I would briefly look around. There would always be a few men looking at me as if they hadn’t seen a woman in ages. (My eyes are up hear gentlemen.) I’m not sensitive. It was just mildly uncomfortable. That is until I was alone with one of them in the hallway. He actually hissed at me. (That may not seem like a big deal to most, but if, like me, you’ve been a sexual assault victim repeatedly, then you’re always on alert.) I’m sure that guy had some issues, and that this wasn’t normal, still.

Furthermore, I think a big problem with the lack of women in STEM fields is simply due to the lack of women. I think role models are important. A department that has all men is likely to draw mostly men. People, whether they admit it or not, like to have real life examples. It is much easier to see yourself as a physicist if a college has physicists in your gender. I’m not saying that some can’t break the cycle. I’m just saying it is harder.

I’m sick of the “solutions” that are supposed to solve the demographics issue. You can put a pretty woman on a pink cover to a popular math book all you want. I’m a human first and a woman second. I actually find this type of advertising patronizing and annoying. Talk to me like a HUMAN. Tell me the benefits of STEM. Don’t patronize me. Don’t belittle me. Talk to me. I don’t know, maybe, have actual feminine women talk to young girls about it. I’m done with my rant. Feel free to send me hate mail.


Conversion Stories: My Two Cents

I find myself skeptical of great many conversion stories. I include atheist-theist as well as theist-atheist conversion stories. Obviously, there is an agenda behind popular ones; since, having been batting for the other team gives one “street-cred.” (I won’t argue this too much here. I think it’s painfully obvious.)

Also, I notice a great many of conversion stories have a similar theme. They were raised an atheist/theist home, and they never thought about it until they were an adult. I, personally, don’t take anyone’s religious or nonreligous stance seriously until they are an adult or close to it, for the most part. I actually disregard anyone’s claim identifying with a specific group, until they go through some amount of internal questioning. Why? Most people take for granted their families religious views. If someone just never thought that their parents just might be wrong, then they are merely defacto “x” religious/non religious groups. They haven’t “chosen” what they think for themselves. It does matter what the person actually believes. Don’t get me wrong. However, simply not thinking about something until you’re an adult does not qualify as holding a particular viewpoint.

It seems to me that people come to a point in their lives where they begin to contemplate beliefs they took for granted during childhood. Many do this. Many do not. A small minority end up differing from their upbringing. Most, it appears, stick with what they were raised to think. In any case, it seems that these people, who are claiming to have converted, haven’t “converted” so to speak. They just finally figured out what they believe on their own for the first time. In some sense, this is the first time they’ve had their own viewpoint. It is not as if they were really convinced of one view, and then they changed their minds. They just hadn’t really thought about it on their own before. Now, we can argue semantics, but I think there is huge difference here.