New Opportunities

In the last decade, women have made significant strides in their professional lives and scholarly pursuits. Even the political world has seen a boom in women running for public office. With all of these glass ceilings being shattered and hierarchical norms being reimagined, there is one industry that could use a boost. The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) sector is seeing an increase in the number of women entering these industries, but there is always room for more.

According to The American Association of University Women (AAUW), women only make up a meager 28% of the workforce across the science, tech, engineering and math industries. Of that percentage, 47.7% are biological scientists and 42.5% are chemists and materials scientists. Seeing that these industries offer some of the highest paying jobs, especially computer sciences, bridging the STEM gender gap may have an impact on income equality in the future.  

New Opportunities for Women in Science and Technology

During a speech at an International Day of Women and Girls in Science banquet, Education Secretary Leonor Briones made it a point to encourage women, both young and established, to think about a future in STEM. “Women, if brought to the field of science and technology will be making great contributions along with men,” Briones said during this year’s celebration. 

Secretary Briones is no stranger to pushing her way to the top. Born in the Philippines, she went on to become a well-known academician, brilliant economist, and civil servant was the incumbent Secretary of Education under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.  

She then touched on the glaring dearth in the number of National Scientists in terms of gender, pledging that we work together to offer more opportunities for women in science, whether that be on the educational side or clear career paths. 

Briones didn’t shy away from being direct while urging stakeholders to put their support behind younger women who may be considering a career path in science and technology. “We don’t have as many [female] scientists in the field but those who are in are making huge contributions,” the Secretary said. “Still, these are not enough, this is still a major challenge to us because there is a great deal of untapped talent, untapped persons who could make even more significant contributions,” she added.

Leonor Briones made it a point to acknowledge the important role women have played in combating COVID-19 throughout the world. The contributions made on behalf of female scientists and technology professionals have paved the way for monumental breakthroughs in pandemic response and vaccine R&D.

Secretary Briones couldn’t be more correct. Gender equality in the science and technology industries is absolutely important, especially when we are currently in an ‘all hands on deck’ type of scenario. According to a recent study published in the journal Cell, Dr. Anthony Fauci and medical historian Dr. David Morens, both of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, claim that we may have entered a pandemic era. If this is true, then we will need the world’s brightest minds, which includes talented female scientists and innovators in technology. 

 Akiko Iwasaki, Ph.D., an immunologist at Yale School of Medicine is another outspoken advocate for women in science. She believes that the problem lies in academics, telling GEN News, “We still have a huge disparity in women representation—especially at the senior level.” Adding, “We have to address the root cause of the problem—the academic culture and the unconscious (or conscious) bias against women and people of color that prevents these brilliant people from moving up the academic ladder.”

 Whatever the case may be, it is clear that there is a need for more women to pursue leading roles in science and technology. And according to Viviana Simon, MD, Ph.D., professor of microbiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, a lot of opportunities have been created in the last decade alone. “We knew a pandemic would come … and we knew we would have to be ready,” says Viviana Simon. Along with her colleagues, she built the Virology Initiative in 2017, which allowed real-time access to samples from patients with viral infections. The size and occupancy of her lab have doubled recently, mostly due to the influx of new researchers and technicians. 

 With a revived demand for specialists in the science and tech space, and the empowering push from women such as Leonor Briones, Akiko Iwasaki and Viviana Simon, it is likely that we’ll be seeing more women pour into key roles to help nurture new discoveries and take science to greater heights.

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