Women are underrepresented in the sciences, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industry. And the women who do enter the field don't tend to stick around — largely because they're working in unfair conditions.
But some female leaders have managed to stem the tides, and they're paving the way for more women to enter the growing field. Here are some female leaders in STEM you should know, as well as some resources to get you started if you're interested in pursuing a career in the sciences yourself.
Women Leaders in Science
Here are five women leaders you should know because they've made it or are making it in STEM.
1. Bindi Karia
Karia, nicknamed the "Queen of Startups" and a TED Talk speaker, works for Silicon Valley Bank as the Vice President. She's also a mentor at London’s top incubators, such as TechStars, Seedcamp, Startupbootcamp and more.
"I am incredibly passionate about all things startup in Europe and connecting the dots between Investors, Founders, Corporates and Government, and as a result, has worked in and around technology startups for most of my career," she writes on her site. "As a Consultant (PwC Consulting), as a Corporate (Microsoft BizSpark /Ventures), as a Startup employee (Trayport), as an Advisor (Startup Europe, Startup Weekend Europe, Tech London Advocates), as a Connector (GQ UK, the IoD and Evening Standard have all recognized this) and until recently, as their Banker (Silicon Valley Bank). The entrepreneurs have influenced me so greatly over the years, that I am currently in the process of setting up my venture, focused on advising and connecting, of course."
2. Katherine Freese
Freese, one of the first women undergraduate students to graduate with a physics major from Princeton University, developed a theory about a new kind of star made up of dark matter rather than nuclear fusion. She came up with the theory of “dark stars."
3. Dr. Jane Goodall
Dr. Goodall is famous from her work studying wild chimpanzees in the forests of Tanzania at just 26 years old, without any higher education or training. In July 1960, she traveled from England to what is now Tanzania to learn about these animals, equipped with little more than a notebook, binoculars and her fascination with wildlife. She ultimately went on to receive her PhD at Cambridge and is now traveling around the world to spread her message of sustainability through her organization the Jane Goodall Institute and its international youth program Roots & Shoots.
"Through more than 50 years of groundbreaking work, Dr. Jane Goodall has not only shown us the urgent need to protect chimpanzees from extinction; she has also redefined species conservation to include the needs of local people and the environment," according to her site. "Today she travels the world, speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees and environmental crises, urging each of us to take action on behalf of all living things and planet we share."
4. Pardis Sabeti
Sabeti is a Geneticist who, with her team, sequenced the Ebola genome from a recent outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Her work determined that the disease was indeed spreading from person to person.
5. Reshma Saujani
Saujani is the author and founder of the national nonprofit Girls Who Code, which she established in 2012 to advocate for a model of female leadership in STEM. The program is based on education and mentorship. Saujani is also the author of three books, including Brave, Not Perfect, New York Times bestseller Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World, and Women Who Don’t Wait In Line, in which she advocates for a new model of female leadership focused on embracing risk and failure, promoting mentorship and sponsorship, and charting one's own course both personally and professionally.
Resources for Women in Science
Here are some organizations, groups, conferences and scholarships to check out if you're interested in a career in finance, yourself.
- National Girls Collaborative Project
- National Math and Science Initiative
- Women in Engineering Proactive Network
- Million Women Mentors
- American Association of University Women
- Association for Women in Science
LinkedIn Groups and Meetups
- Women of STEM
- STEM Women
- Association for Women in Science
- Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Art (STEM)
- NYC-Women in STEM
Conferences for Women in STEM
- Women in STEM Conference
- The Global Women of STEM Leadership Summit
- The Women in Tech Summit
- Women Transforming Technology Conference
- Diversity in Tech Conference
- Wonder Women Tech Conference
- We RISE Tech Conference
- The Grace Hopper Celebration
- Women of Color’s STEM Conference
- Tech Up For Women
Scholarships for Women in STEM
- Institute of Industrial Systems and Engineers Scholarship
- AWIS Kirsten R. Lorentzen Award
- Science Systems and Applications, Inc. (SSAI) Academic Scholarship
- Women Techmakers Scholarship
- Aysen Tunca Memorial Scholarship
Career Opportunities for Women in Science
There aren't as many women in STEM as there are men, and those who do work in STEM often find themselves leaving the industry. But it's not because they're not interested in the field.
While, to date, only 27 percent of all students taking the AP Computer Science exam in the United States are female, and just 18 percent of American computer-science college degrees go to women, women aren't studying and pursuing STEM for valid reasons. They're also more likely than men to leave their careers for jobs in other industries, according to Catalyst data, because they aren't treated fairly.
Fifty-three percent of women (compared to 31 percent of men) who start out in business roles in tech-intensive industries, for example, leave for other industries, largely because of isolation, hostile male-dominated work environments, ineffective executive feedback and a lack of effective sponsors, the research suggests.
Another study of 1,464 women engineers who have left the field found that women don't stick around in STEM for three primary reasons. First and foremost, they leave because they're working in unfair conditions. Women were being paid unfairly compared to their male counterparts, and they're receiving little support to accommodate a work-family balance. Women are also neither receiving the recognition they deserve for their work, nor the opportunities for advancement. And women report feeling unable to effectively use their math and science skills, often because their superiors and colleagues doubt their skills.
But STEM jobs are growing in demand, and women can fill these openings. "As STEM-related industries on a whole add over 1.7 million jobs in the coming years, there continues to be a notable absence of women in the field," according to Women in Computer Science.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.