Women and minorities face discrimination, challenges in STEM fields

Photo at top: A scientist examines a specimen at The Field Museum DNA Discover Center. Feb. 8, 2018. (Tiffany Chen/MEDILL)

By Tiffany Chen
Medill Reports

The fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) have long been dominated by men. Women in these fields often face harassment, discrimination and inequality.

“There are built-in biases in the system of academia that are harmful to women in particular,” said Shauna Price, a postdoctoral fellow at the Field Museum. “When I was younger. I don’t think I was taken seriously, especially because of my gender and looking young.”

Half of the women in STEM field experienced gender discrimination in their workspace, according to a Pew Research Study published in January. Salary differences in the same job and being treated as if they were not competent are the two biggest categories. Discrimination is especially common for women in STEM jobs who work mostly with men.

“The goal of the Field Museum’s Women in Science group is to increase participation in women in all areas in the sciences, and help overcome gender biases in women in the sciences,” said Price.

Women are not the only group that feels undermined, people of color encounter similar experiences. The same study shows that 62 percent of African Americans who are in STEM fields have experienced discrimination on the job while 13 percent of white Americans have the same experience.

“I think it’s going to continue to change in that sense,” said Bernard Santarsiero, a research professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who has been working in the science field for 40 years. “And following on that, the big changes will be individuals of color. They’re still lagging.”

Across academia, efforts are underway. The Field Museum is offering an internship programs to undergraduate students from underrepresented groups. Price and Santarsiero both call for the diversity of gender and race in the STEM fields and beyond.

Photo at top: A scientist examines a specimen at the Field Museum DNA Discover Center. Feb. 8, 2018. (Tiffany Chen/MEDILL)