Empowering Women in STEM Through Influential Female Role Models

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Kanchana Gupta

The professional landscape is rapidly changing, driven by the digital revolution. This shift is unveiling exciting and ever-evolving career opportunities. The fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are experiencing a growing demand for highly skilled individuals. Professionals with STEM expertise are in high demand across a wide range of industries, including healthcare, finance, and manufacturing. Moreover, they are well-positioned to seize the expanding prospects in emerging fields such as artificial intelligence and robotics.

However, the issue of gender disparity continues to persist within STEM sectors, resulting in certain segments of society being deprived of fair and balanced opportunities. Unfortunately, women currently make up a mere 28 per cent of the worldwide STEM workforce, highlighting the significant endeavour needed to achieve genuine parity. This lack of representation extends beyond mere statistics, as it carries broader consequences for innovation, creativity, and effective problem-solving within these domains.

With deeper penetration of technology in our lives as well as in rural areas of India, it is estimated that more than 80 per cent jobs in future will be STEM-oriented, with some requirements of a STEM education. This is an important aspect to consider while creating more opportunities for female students in marginalised and underserved communities. STEM focused education and access to role models and mentors will not only empower them but will also create more opportunities for them.

The absence of women in educational programmes and professional positions within STEM sectors remains a conspicuous concern. The recent statistics highlighted in a survey conducted by the renowned global brand OLAY from P&G regarding women in STEM bring to light the existing imbalance, largely attributed to the lack of female role models. The survey findings present a compelling narrative: a striking 81 per cent of young women abandoned their aspirations due to the lack of female mentors or role models. Furthermore, the survey indicated that an overwhelming 88 per cent believed that the presence of accomplished female role models in the workplace would serve as a great motivation for them to re-engage with STEM fields. An overwhelming 91 per cent emphasised the vital role of female role models in sustaining engagement within STEM careers.

With deeper penetration of technology in our lives as well as in rural areas of India, it is estimated that more than 80 per cent jobs in future will be STEM-oriented, with some requirements of a STEM education. This is an important aspect to consider while creating more opportunities for female students in marginalised and underserved communities. STEM focused education and access to role models and mentors will not only empower them but will also create more opportunities for them.

The Power of Role Models

Role models play a significant role in shaping aspirations and self-perception. Encountering success stories fosters confidence. For young women, the presence of accomplished female scientists and engineers dispels the notion that STEM is inherently male dominated, showcasing that competence is not tied to gender. Female role models within STEM demonstrate that gender is not a barrier to success. Their narratives inspire girls to set ambitious goals. Introducing girls to stories of women who have triumphed over STEM obstacles can help them envision themselves in such roles. This sense of identification nurtures aspirations and fosters resilience.

Female STEM role models have a far-reaching impact beyond personal goals. With more women excelling in STEM, the field gains diverse perspectives and inventive solutions. Female role models set off a positive cycle, motivating new generations of women to join STEM, thereby diversifying the workforce and propelling advancement. This is more relevant for women from rural areas and women from marginalised and underserved communities. Watching stories of others succeed can create confidence and pave the way for many.

Shattering Stereotypes 

Gender stereotypes continue to persist within the STEM fields, even in today’s modern era. The stereotype that certain domains are “not suitable for girls” or that women inherently lack technological aptitude acts as a discouragement. These attitudes affect the confidence of girls in pursuing careers in STEM and it calls for the urgent requirement for female role models who challenge and break down these stereotypes. Female STEM role models defy these preconceptions, demonstrating that intelligence knows no gender boundaries.

Navigating the Challenges 

Navigating the path within STEM disciplines involves a sequence of obstacles, and for women, these challenges can be especially pronounced due to distinct barriers. Barriers such as societal prejudices, cultural norms, and at times, overt bias, can impede their advancement. Female STEM role models play a crucial role in addressing these challenges. Their experiences and successes provide a roadmap for overcoming the hurdles that women in STEM might encounter. These role models offer more than just inspiration; they provide practical strategies for navigating the intricacies of a male-centric environment. 

​​It is Easier to Be Her, If You Can See Her 

Girls often lack access to role models that demonstrate the inclusivity of STEM fields for them. There is a noticeable scarcity of portrayals of female scientists and engineers in various forms of media, literature, and popular culture. Numerous studies underscore the universal benefits of female role models, encapsulated in the adage “Seeing is Believing.” Female STEM role models have a far-reaching impact beyond personal goals. With more women excelling in STEM, the field gains diverse perspectives and inventive solutions. Female role models set off a positive cycle, motivating new generations of women to join STEM, thereby diversifying the workforce and propelling advancement. This is more relevant for women from rural areas and women from marginalised and underserved communities. Watching stories of others succeed can create confidence and pave the way for many.

The importance of female STEM role models cannot be overstated. They play a crucial role in bridging the gap between aspirations and achievements, effectively debunking stereotypes and fostering self-confidence. These role models actively contribute to creating an environment where women are not only welcomed but also valued and acknowledged within STEM fields.

The importance of female STEM role models cannot be overstated. They play a crucial role in bridging the gap between aspirations and achievements, effectively debunking stereotypes and fostering self-confidence. These role models actively contribute to creating an environment where women are not only welcomed but also valued and acknowledged within STEM fields. As we continue our unwavering dedication to achieving gender equality and strive for a more inclusive global landscape, the stories and achievements of female STEM role models shine as guiding beacons. They illuminate the path toward a brighter future for women in STEM, marking the way toward progress and empowerment.

Kanchana Gupta is the founder of vLookUp – a digital mentoring platform that helps women find suitable mentors across countries, experience, and domains. With an extensive background spanning more than 18 years in the corporate realm, Kanchana is driving transformations in the Tech corporate world and is also an entrepreneur championing women at work. Kanchana is currently the Global Resource Management Lead at NCS Group Singapore, where she provides leadership, coaching and guidance to a team of 30+ professionals across Singapore, India and Australia. She is also actively involved as a member of Women in Tech Committee of NCS Group, helping to promote higher gender diversity in Tech industry.