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Thursday, 15 June 2017

Women in STEM subjects

Marie Curie
The STEM fields represent roughly 85% of men and 15% of women in the UK. The same would be true of Psychology, except the stats are reversed. When I was in secondary school a company named Moody's partnered up with my school to create a mentoring program in order to encourage more young women to pursue a career in finance. I saw loads of girls interested in the Sciences; I did Triple Science at GCSE level and there were plenty of girls in my class. During my A levels I knew of girls who studied the Sciences and Maths and Economics. I never once saw them discouraged.

The idea that there should be quotas for women in STEM subjects makes me annoyed. As an Arts student, I never see women – or anyone – being encouraged to pursue the Arts. Science is ‘more important’ and ‘more respectable.’ I hated Science at school – I mean I respect the basic premises of it, and I enjoyed parts of Biology particularly Evolution, but the whole field just bored me. (Then again, school can kill your joy of things). I don’t find it as interesting as History or Psychology or Literature. (In other words; I prefer the social sciences to natural sciences). There is nothing these days discouraging young women from pursuing careers in STEM fields. If anything, the UK education system is trying to push more people into the Sciences, as the education secretary doesn’t seem to see the validity of the Arts (bloody Tories).

Arts are important and Sciences are important. Without the Sciences we wouldn’t have the theories of gravity, evolution, the big bang; we wouldn’t have access to technology like phones and computers, we wouldn’t be able to send people into space, we’d still think the sun rises in the morning because the sun god makes it happen – etc etc. We need Sciences but we need Arts as well. We need Arts for entertainment, expression, self-fulfilment; to have an outlet, to showcase social issues (as is often done in film), and to explore the creative parts of our brains. We need logic and reasoning as well as creativity and emotion.

It is true that off the top of my head I can only name one female scientist: Marie Curie. Granted, the only male scientists I can think of are Einstein, Hawking, and I would say Newton but wasn’t he a mathematician? But the sciences are not my field of interest. Off the top of my head I can name plenty of female writers:

Harper Lee, Maya Angelou, Angela Davis, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, Jacqueline Wilson, Enid Blyton, Zadie Smith, Liane Moriarty, Sophie Kinsella, Louise Rennison, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Sarah Dessen, Sarah Manning, Louise O' Neill, Meg Cabot, Caitlin Moran, Germaine Greer, Mary Shelley, Mary Wollstoncraft, Simone de Beuvoir, JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer (unfortunately), EL James (even more unfortunately), Allison Pearson, Lucy Daniels, Linda Chapman, Jill Murphy, Alice Walker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Paula Hawkins, Gillian Flynn...

Zadie Smith
These are female writers across children’s, YA and adult genres, both classic and contemporary. Why aren’t we giving them credit? They may not be scientists or engineers, but they (well, most of them) could/can certainly write. They’ve given us wonderful stories or non-fiction texts, and have helped us to critically analyse the world we live in or simply entertain us.

I stand by my belief that all disciplines, from Philosophy to Graphic Design, possess intrinsic value. I don’t think it matters whether or not women or men are following certain careers; as long as you love something and are good at it, you should pursue it. If I was a woman wanting a career in Business, I would want the company to hire me because I was the best for the job, not because I have a vagina.

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