A topic people like to discuss to sound they like care about equality is how we need more women and people of color, or people of color who are women, in STEM fields. Studies show that as of 2017, the US Department of Commerce estimates only about 24% of STEM positions in the United States are held by women. Of all the women earning advanced degrees in STEM, an even smaller percentage of these degrees are conferred to women of color (WOC). As of 2016, 2.9% of advanced STEM degrees were conferred to black women, 3.6% to Latina women, and 4.8% for Asian women (which includes Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian all lumped into one category, but that’s a different issue, I suppose).
It is not enough to say, as a society, that we need more women and WOC in STEM without putting forth efforts to make this a reality. It is also not enough to pressure women into these fields without addressing the bigger issues: how are women treated in these fields in the first place? How are WOC viewed and received in areas of study that are typically dominated by white men? What is driving women away from these careers once they have started them? How do these women overcome these hardships?
This is an account of stories from various women in STEM, with a focus on underrepresented minorities: Black women, Latina women, Native women, Trans women. It is not statistically relevant to account simply my own experiences as a WOC in STEM (Indian, physicist) as they cannot be used to generalize the experiences of all WOC in STEM. Women of other ethnicities and gender identities have their own stories to tell that I cannot relate to, and therefore, I cannot speak about them from my own point of view. I can, however, annoyingly email them, call them, text them, Facebook message them, Instagram message them, and tweet at them, begging them to tell me about their experiences in STEM for my own personal benefit.
We must also ask how to keep women/WOC in STEM once they join.
Respect and representation.
So, consider this an informal study of the accounts of women/WOC in STEM, in fields that are often dominated by cis-gendered white men.
And perhaps some young girl will read this and decide that maybe it’s cool to be in STEM after all. I look forward to hearing and sharing your stories.