Business Spotlight

Women In STEM For An Inclusive And Innovative Future: Student Entrepreneur Tarini Malhotra's Panoramic Perspective

In a world where STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields remain predominantly male, Sam’s journey mirrors that of countless women facing similar challenges.

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Tarini Malhotra
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Samaira ‘Sam’ Kumari-Anderson is, in the words of her friends, a living oxymoron. An easygoing person in everyday life, Sam braces up every day to face the relentless challenge of being a woman in a male-dominated field. Clad in her pristine lab coat, Sam works in her biochemistry lab with confidence and professionalism, concealing the nagging insecurities that come with breaking down barriers.

In a world where STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields remain predominantly male, Sam’s journey mirrors that of countless women facing similar challenges. They cannot make mistakes. They cannot be less knowledgeable than their male counterparts. They must debunk the myths and dismantle the stereotypes for their own sake.

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Sam’s experience underscores a larger truth: women in STEM often struggle to feel validated and accepted in their fields while working or studying in competitive, testosterone-fueled environments. While female students do equally well or better than male peers, gender equality in STEM remains elusive, with the World Bank noting that only 18% of girls enrolled at the tertiary level pursue studies in the field of STEM, compared to 35% of boys. Globally, women account for only 33% of researchers, 22% of AI professionals and 28% of engineering students.

In India, the deeply entrenched patriarchal structure with its institutionalized gender biases causes women’s participation in STEM-related jobs after higher studies to plummet to a dismal 14%, leading to limited diversity of thought and stifling of innovation. Women like Sam, who somehow make it face microaggressions from male counterparts, often meant to hold them back and inhibit their success. Just like Sam, other STEMinists (feminists in STEM) who face a biased environment feel compelled to prove their worth constantly.

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Misogyny starts early. All around the world, a carefully masked movement begins in infancy with girls playing with Barbies and boys creating architectural marvels (or not) with Lego sets. STEM-related enrichment is far more encouraged for boys during formative years, inconspicuously indoctrinating a mindset that women are not suited for STEM. Such apparently innocent gender stereotypes end up subtly steering girls towards ‘softer,’ ‘artsy’ subjects from an early age. This snowballs into a lack of confidence in their own STEM skills, which in turn can lead to lower performance—a gap that only widens as girls get older. Various factors, ranging from a lack of inspirational role models to a lack of parent-teacher support to peer pressure, also make most women give up on STEM without truly exploring its possibilities.

Shifting this paradigm won’t be easy, but women’s participation in STEM is now on a decisively upward curve – with significant improvement in nations like India and members of the European Union. More women are enrolling in STEM programs at universities, and the representation of women in executive and board roles within STEM-focused companies is growing.

So, it’s time to let young women like Sam be their true selves. It’s time to let women in STEM fully experience their fields of interest and reap the same material and cognitive rewards as men. And it’s time to change the power imbalances in male-dominated classrooms so women are emboldened to pursue STEM.

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The journey ahead may not be easy, but it’s worth taking. A future where women thrive in STEM fields promises boundless progress and prosperity. So, let us shatter glass ceilings and let women in STEM illuminate the path to progress for generations to come, building a more inclusive and innovative future.

This is our STEMinist agenda; to slip up in our endeavours would be to concede defeat.

Tarini Malhotra is a Grade 12 student of The Shri Ram School, Moulsari Campus, Gurugram and the Founder of Nai Subah Foundation, a social start-up fighting the good fight for the neurodiverse and the marginalized.

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