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We Refuse to be Silenced

By Savaas Iqbal and Prerna Shankar

2021 Governor's STEM Scholars

Published in TAP into Parsippany and Parsippany Focus

March 2021: Women’s History Month. This month is about celebrating women’s contributions to the world. This year’s theme is “Refusing to be Silenced”; appreciating all the women who have broken stereotypes and refused to be treated as lesser. When it comes to STEM, women aren’t as present in the field as men, and for a variety of reasons. In honor of STEM month, we refuse to be silenced when it comes to gender disparities in STEM.

Consider Katalin Karikó, Ph.D., a Hungarian-born biochemist, one of few women scientists that may be awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

If she wins, she would be one of only eight women to receive the honor in the prize’s 110 years.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, her revolutionary research is the backbone of the mRNA vaccines. Her work provides lifesaving protection to millions. Like her, there are millions of female innovators. However, these women make up a minute fraction of the men that have dominated the field.

Women in STEM are capable, yet a small part of them pursue careers in STEM— mainly due to a lack of female role models and inequalities between the sexes even from young ages. We, as young women of color who are interested in pursuing STEM, feel the public should know about our struggles as young women in STEM and elaborate on how to combat inequalities across STEM professions.

Many believe that there aren’t any gender inequities in STEM. If this were the case, representation in STEM would be equal.. The data simply says otherwise; for example, women only hold 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry.

We have been exposed to science from our youth, and understand the necessity for women to be exposed to STEM. It opens up opportunities for us to broaden our perspectives and innovate.

When we think of famous scientists, we think of Einstein, Darwin, Newton. Notice how no women are listed. Why don’t we think of Ada Lovelace, Jane Goodall, Katherine Johnson?

The key difference is that these women aren’t given the visibility they deserve. The achievements of men are exposed to us from a young age that we can list them off the top of our heads, yet we have to resort to Google searches to find notable women in STEM.

There’s a consistent pattern of boys dominating science classes and camps compared to girls. As high school STEM students, we’ve noticed this trend for years – even as early as elementary school.