In an effort to boost gender diversity, universities in Michigan and across the United States have been aggressively recruiting women into their science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, both as students and as faculty. However, studies show that systemic sexism and racism are still prevalent in STEM fields, sometimes driving women to abandon their careers.
A recent study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly surveyed 685 undergraduate women enrolled in an entry-level biology course. Of that group, 60.9% said they experienced gender discrimination and 78.1% said they experienced sexual harassment over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Utah found that female doctoral students in STEM programs often suffered from imposter syndrome, which is the tendency of competent people to feel like frauds compared to others in their profession. It also found that students who felt like imposters were more likely to report low confidence and to view their academic environments negatively.
Women of color may feel even more unwelcome in STEM fields. Currently, black and Hispanic women only account for a combined 1.6% of all engineering faculty, while Asian women make up just 4%. However, researchers found that female STEM students who had strong family and peer support were able to maintain their motivation and were more likely to pursue a STEM career.
There are state and federal laws designed to protect workers from on-the-job gender and race discrimination. Michigan workers who are subjected to any form of workplace discrimination might find relief by discussing the situation with an employment attorney. After learning the details of the case, the attorney might suggest filing a discrimination claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or an equivalent state agency.