March is Women’s History Month, and I often like to use this time to take the temperature of women’s progress toward equality in society. The results are so often a mixed bag. Women earn more bachelor’s and master’s degrees than men, but still make up less than 20% of Congress and C-Suite positions in Fortune 500 companies. We’ve come a long way but we still have progress to make. While I think we will continue to move forward in some of the less gender-segregated fields, a report by a client recently reminded me of some of the areas we still have much ground to make up.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) released a report on women in STEM programs and fields, presenting a broad collection of data from a long period of time that tracks women’s progress or backtracking in key areas. Sadly, while women in school and beyond are slowly making gains in some fields of science, we’re actually moving backwards in computer science fields—one of the areas of the economy with the most media attention because of future potential job opportunities.
This back tracking is disturbing, and could in some ways be linked to the ongoing problem of sexism in this field, as recently made evident through Adria Richards and her experience with sexism at a tech conference. This may be one of the cultural influences subverting progress, but I think there may be others too.
Because it’s Women’s History Month, I started to think through the women in science I could name. Marie Curie came to mind, and then I was a bit stumped. Until today. Fortunately for all of us, we lack names of past women in science, not because they aren’t there, but because we don’t know about them—yet. Today I came across a Slate article about a project with a GREAT title: “Grandma Got STEM.” Looking to fight the stereotype that women aren’t in science fields and grandma doesn’t understand science, Rachel Levy has embarked on an internet mission to collect the stories of “grandmas” in science. This beautiful project is both oral history and educational, and it captures those stories you may never have heard to show the many women who are and have been in STEM fields. Please consider sharing your story this Women’s History Month.