by Robel Wondimu ‘13
In 21st century America, women still only make 77 percent of what a man does for doing the same job, even though the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act outlawed such pay discrimination.
Women are terribly underrepresented in some fields while they dominate others. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, only 14 percent of engineers are women and less than 20 percent in the computer science field are females. On the other hand, according to the Department of Labor, women comprise 96.1 percent of secretaries and administrative assistants as well as 91.1 percent of nurses.
Of all the students taking STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) AP exams, 40,000 more males took exams than females. Of the classes in which women are most underrepresented, 20 are STEM classes. Females make up 14 percent of students in Computer Science AB, 23 percent in Physics C1 and 41 percent in Calculus BC.
Another barrier to women’s success is the “glass ceiling,” the obstacle preventing women from advancing their careers. The misconceptions and double standards embedded in the American mindset cause this barrier. For example, in the workplace, while assertive male bosses are viewed as hard-working, assertive women are viewed as pushy or worse.
Women are also held back by pregnancy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 65 percent worked at all during pregnancy. Because women have child bearing responsibilities, they may be forced to take maternity leave and be unable to advance to higher positions. Research has also shown that the women of dual-income households are expected to be the ones to sacrifice their career for family, even in households where the woman makes more money than her husband.
If these predisposed gender roles are eradicated, then more women will get into key juncture fields in STEM as well as other areas in which they are underrepresented.