By Rhythm Gupta
Studies have repeatedly reported that math and science are perceived as male-dominated domains and that scientists as predominantly cis-men. The argument that women aren’t biologically designed for STEM, is just a myth.
As a matter of fact, biological differences between male and female brains are not large, and their effect on the female aptitude to STEM is minuscule. Clearly, these differences alone cannot be the cause of a lack of women in STEM.
It is, in actuality, a collation of several factors like inconducive environment and treatment, generations-long social bias especially of gender, insufficient changes made by colleges, universities, and workplaces to accommodate female students, and lack of female role models, that can explain the lack of women in STEM.
If one analyses the facet of women in the workplace, one will find that gender inequality is rampant in the workplace everywhere. The ideal woman, unfortunately, still has to be first a wife and a mother, then anything else. She represents her family, and therefore, her presence is mandatory in all cultural and religious events.
Men and women are still paid significantly differently even today. This pay gap, combined with the bias they face at work from colleagues, gives women less incentive to take on the double burden of the home and the workplace. There is a narrower range of acceptable behaviour for a woman and visible discrimination against mothers.
So, unsurprisingly, Indian women commonly drop out of the workforce during major life changes, especially once they have a baby, and once they reach close to mid-management levels.
Amid so many multi-layered issues lingering in our society till date, I came across a children’s book, Flying High. This book, authored by Geeta Dharmarajan, and published by Katha, induced so much hope, pride, and happiness in me the first time I read it.
The simple journey of Suni Pandya in her spaceship encapsulated in this book gives a fresh dose of inspiration to its readers. Real-life pictures of the courageous female astronaut annotated with clear and motivating explanations and notes of her leadership experience are so thrilling and informative.
I could re-read this book so many times, especially now, when women only need a positive environment and systemic encouragement to unleash their real leadership potential!
This book is a very important read for EVERY individual in our society. It is a good example of the thought that with the right motivation and approach, women can perform as brilliantly as men in even the apparently most ‘masculine’ fields such as the various fields of STEM.
Representation is important; we need more female world leaders in science and technology. And, we need to help women get there. Women should not have to fight each other for a spot in teams or quit work to be mothers just because their lives will be purposely made that much harder if they don’t. Fundamentally, this book teaches us that the future doesn’t have to be so far.
About the author: Rhythm Gupta is a volunteer at Katha. A B.Sc. Economics and Finance student at Ashoka University, she is fond of all forms of art and literature. She also likes travelling and understanding different cultures.
This article is a part of Katha’s segment titled Conversations On Books, a space for the Katha family, and friends of Katha, to talk about Katha books.