‘Why doesn’t your husband just let you stay home?’
Women are vastly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – that’s a fact. But with a push to get girls involved in STEM from a young age, the shortage is set to improve.
One of the main issues facing STEM in terms of gender inequality is actually the deeply engrained prejudices against women from inside the tech world.
Despite being some of the top minds of their time, female engineers and mathematicians often find themselves spoken down to by male counterparts, whether it’s being complimented on wardrobe choices rather than business acumen or being given coffee orders instead of respect.
In an effort to bring attention to the gender inequality in STEM and to improve working conditions for the women in the industry, oil company Shell spoke to female engineers, asking them to recall some of the shocking things that are said to them on a daily basis.
The result was very powerful.
‘Those clothes don’t make you look good – are you putting on weight or something?’, one female engineer recalled being told, while another was greeted with the line, ‘Nice dress Sarah – good to see that you’re making an effort.’
But they weren’t all appearance-based, with other female engineers recalling being told, ‘You don’t want to be an engineer – that’s a man’s job’, while another was asked, ‘‘Why doesn’t your husband just let you stay home?’.
Over time gender bias can push women out of engineering and technology, and that is what needs to change. Shell are asking why is it we encourage young girls but often discourage educated women?
Here are some of the gender-based put downs that these top females in STEM have encountered…
‘She only got the position because she’s a woman’
‘Hey sweetie, when you’ve got a minute, I’ll have a cup of coffee’
‘You got promoted too?!’
‘File that for me – there’s a good girl’
‘We won’t tip-toe around you because you’re a woman you know. You still have to put in the same amount of work’
‘So I guess you’ll be starting a family soon, ay?’
‘Hey guys, no swearing there’s a woman in the room’
‘I don’t think this university is ready for a female president?’
‘Are you sure you’ll be able to handle this course? It’s quite advanced…’
‘We’ll do the more technical stuff, and you can take notes ok?’
There is a need for change – that is clear – and it looks like the female engineers of the future might be the one’s to bridge the gap.
‘And what would you say, if you heard someone say these things?’ a young girl was asked in the video, to which she replied, ‘I would say, “Why would you say something like that? I can do whatever you can do. And even if you do think that, we women will show you that we can do it.”‘