Recently, educators and policymakers have shifted more attention and funding to students’ education in science, technology, engineering, and math, known as STEM. Last month, for example, President Obama announced that his Educate to Innovate initiative raised $28 million to train 100,000 STEM teachers by 2021, augmenting the budget of $53 million already awarded for teacher recruitment.
Even people who have haven’t had STEM on their radar have probably seen headlines that reflect the challenges and discrimination faced by some people interested in pursuing these fields. Women in science have gotten a fair amount of attention, and it’s warranted; even though women made up about 45 percent of the overall workforce in 2010, they only accounted for 28 percent of scientists, according to the National Academy of Sciences.
Although there are more women in the workforce now than ever before, women who aim high professionally know that they will likely encounter a tough road. Many encounter discrimination or dissuasion (in STEM and otherwise) and almost all are forced to make hard choices between their jobs and other aspects of life. Since women entered the workforce, they have been subjected to an impossibly high standard of of “having it all”—professional success, well-behaved children, sated spouse, spotless oven. And living up to that expectation can be daunting. Trailblazers like Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, have offered tips for how women can better navigate a male-dominated professional world, yet somehow true equality in the workplace seems to seem only incremental.