The Discrimination and Biases STEM Women Experience In the Workplace
Wed, April 21, 2021

The Discrimination and Biases STEM Women Experience In the Workplace


Science and gender equality play a significant role in achieving the global sustainable development goals, argued Johnny Wood of the World Economic Forum, an independent international organization. Sadly, women are still excluded from participating fully in STEM fields, as noted by the United Nations, an international organization.


Women In STEM Workplaces

Global non-profit Catalyst highlighted that women represented 28.8% or less than a third of those employed in scientific research and development (R&D) across the globe in 2015. Central Asia (48.1%), Latin American and the Caribbean (45.4%), Central and Eastern Europe (39.5%), and the Arab States (39.8%) were the only regions in which women represented over a third of the R&D workforce.

In Australia, women accounted for only 27% of the STEM workforce across all sectors in 2016. In the same year, they only represented 12.4% of engineers in Australia’s labor force. In 2018, women accounted for 22.8% of those working in computer system design and related services.

Cary Funk and Kim Parker of Pew Research Center, a non-partisan fact tank, found that 50% of women in STEM jobs said they experienced gender discrimination at work compared to 19% of men in STEM. 20% of women said their gender made it harder to succeed at work unlike 7% of men. Women (36%) were also more likely than men (28%) to cite sexual harassment as a problem in their workplace.

Women in STEM fields (50%) were more likely than those in non-STEM jobs (41%) to say they experienced discrimination in the workplace. The data showed that women in STEM also faced the same challenges as those of all working women. The most common forms of discrimination by women in STEM fields were earning less than a man doing the same job (29% versus 6% of men in STEM jobs), having someone treat them as if they were incompetent (29% versus 4%), and experiencing repeated, small slights at work (20% versus 4%).



Other forms of discrimination include receiving less support from senior leaders than a man/women who doing the same job (18% versus 9%), feeling isolated at work (11% versus 5%), being passed over for the most important assignments (9% versus 4%), being turned down for a job (7% versus 4%), and being denied a promotion (6% versus 4%).

78% of women in STEM working in male-dominated workspaces perceived more gender inequities than STEM women working in workspaces with more women/gender mix (44%). 79% of women in STEM with more men said they felt the need to prove themselves at work all/some of the time (versus 52%). Those working in male-dominated workspaces (48%) said sexual harassment is a problem at work unlike 33% of STEM women in other settings.

48% of STEM women working in workspaces with more men said their gender made it harder to succeed in their job compared to 14% of STEM women in other settings. Further, 43% of STEM women in majority-male settings mentioned that their workplace pays too little attention to increasing gender diversity compared to 15% of other STEM women. 


Gender Biases and Discrimination Is Still Prevalent In the Workplace

Tech innovation company Studio Graphene and an independent market research agency conducted an online survey of more than 500 UK adults—who were all full-time professionals working in the UK tech industry—from January 31 to February 5, 2020, quoted Dr. Pragaya Agarwal of business news site Forbes. 

Similar to the findings of the Pew Research Center, 49% of women in the UK survey experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace. Alarmingly, 20% resigned in the past due to the discrimination or harassment they face at work. 60% of respondents believed that a lack of diversity is an issue in the tech sector. More women (66%) than men (56%) echoed this sentiment.

This shows that men and women view the status quo differently due to their status and role in the organization and the society, said Dr. Agarwal. Very few women occupy senior positions as 77% of tech director roles in the UK are men. The lack of women in senior positions perpetuates the myth that women are not as good as men in STEM fields.

Such issues hinder women and girls from pursuing careers in STEM, argued Wood. In fact, women who choose to apply experience discriminatory hiring practices, said Polina Khabarova, Deputy Director General, Chief Transformation Officer and HRD at CROC. For example, a tech company may begin an interview without saying “hello” and ask a female applicant, “Show me how to do that thing in C++”

This is an adversarial and boastful approach in job interviews, often over predicting success for men and under predicting women’s success. If hired, the employee would later face unequal pay and stunted career growth.



Women and Girls Will Benefit From Having a Growth Mindset

People with a “fixed mindset” believe that intelligence is static while those with a “growth mindset”  believe that intelligence can be developed, stated the American Association of University Women (AAUW), a non-profit organization founded in 1881. Having a growth mindset helps individuals embrace challenges, persist when they face obstacles, perceive effort as a path to mastery, learn from criticism, and be inspired by other people’s success.

When women and girls believe “they have a fixed amount of intelligence,” they are more likely to lose confidence and deviate from pursuing their interest in science and engineering when they encounter difficulties in their courses. A growth mindset is relevant for women and girls because it will encourage them to persist even if they are barraged by negative stereotypes.


Unity In Diversity In STEM Workplaces

In the workplace, an organization should have a diverse team of professionals, said Khabarova. Diversity entails composing a more complex view of the subject and suggesting a more client-oriented product.

In the tech industry, for instance, a mixed-team approach is critical in order for colleagues to gain diverse insights from various social groups, allowing them to make appropriate products to cater to the needs of the society and make life comfortable, Khabarova added.

Women working in STEM fields face gender discrimination and bias in the workplace. This can be in a form of unequal pay, stunted career growth, being passed over for a promotion or an assignment, being turned down for a job, and more. Girls are also stereotyped to be not as good as boys when it comes to math and science.

Even at an early age, girls who plan to work in STEM should be encouraged to employ a growth mindset to help them reach their goals. There is a lot more to be done to close the gender gap and erase antiquated beliefs about women and girls.