All people, regardless of their gender, should have the opportunity to excel in the STEM field. Unfortunately, there has been a large gap in the resources that have allowed men to succeed in such fields in comparison to the resources given to women. Because women traditionally take on more domestic responsibilities, they may not have as much time as men to complete the training needed for a STEM career, something they are faulted and criticized for but aren’t ultimately responsible for.
Being a minority has gotten to some, and some women have even taken action to speak out about their status. Dr. Kanakadurga (Durga) Singer, a faculty member at the University of Michigan, was such a woman, and bluntly shares her thoughts on the presence of women in her field: “Being a woman researcher and a pediatric endocrinologist I have often felt like a minority.”
She isn’t wrong – while women are increasingly taking up shares in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) field and are on track to pursue careers in STEM, there still aren’t enough women to qualify as a majority in the field.
Statistics reveal that while women comprise of almost half (47 percent) of the workforce, only about 25 percent of women hold a position in STEM. Women in STEM are also half of the college-educated population. Where are the rest of the women going, and what is happening to them?
As a faculty member constantly engaging in research – she is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the University of Michigan – Singer wanted to be able to answer that question. Her fire was first lit when she attended joined a peer group called Women in Diabetes and Obesity Research.
One of Singer’s biggest supporters was Dr. Sally Camper, who guided Singer in gathering the women in the group together to form connections. “As a group, we planned a women in Basic Science panel discussion, [and] the discussion was amazing,” Singer says. “I realized that gathering trainees and junior faculty and getting advice and guidance from leaders could make an impact by helping answer questions and also form new connections.”
With the help of leaders at Michigan Medicine, the medical branch of the University of Michigan, Singer has begun to create events with the sole purpose of empowering women and creating discussion for women in the STEM field.
“As I became a faculty member, I started contacting many of the successful women role models in basic science and diabetes research at the University of Michigan,” Singer says. “I felt that with each conversation about their career paths, I gained a wealth of information from their real-life stories that I would never have been exposed to.”
Singer most recently spoke at Hope College in a seminar titled “Current Issues for Women in Medicine and Science – Let’s Discuss,” and students emerged hopeful that speaking out on the gender gap would allow the issue to move past women and to men, changing the system as they knew it for good. And once a revolution begins, there is no stopping it.
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