How the World Is Changing for STEM

The speed of science and technology development has reached an exponential level, according to Ray Kurzweil. Developments made possible in the next 10 to 20 years will be huge. New drug development, for instance, will be faster, and testing will be more rigorous as we try to make medicines safe. New drug developments will become more systematic and computerized. STEM will be more fascinating, and there will be more opportunities for women.

Barriers to Closing the STEM Gender Gap

There are internal barriers and external barriers. We’ve gotten a lot better at overcoming external barriers, such as providing child care help for women and families. The internal barriers come from our own self-doubt and the fear of asserting ourselves too much. Asking “Is this right?” or “Should I do this?” creates a negative perception of our confidence and ability. This is an internal barrier we can change—and help other women to change.

Moving STEM Women Forward

It is important to find ways to help girls gravitate toward science. We must also help girls and women understand that it is okay to make mistakes and fall—and that it is important to get up again. We will be successful only when we have experienced failure. Accepting failure is a cornerstone of improvement.

Women in STEM 5 Years Out

I hope and believe there will be a lot more women in STEM. Women have many advantages: we’re very thorough and detailed-oriented; we can juggle multiple issues at once; we make connections among different issues; and we are good at finding harmony. We do not just understand science, we embrace it. Collectively, we are becoming stronger, and in time, STEM is going to be very different.

Some Words of Advice

As women in STEM, we must overcome our own self-imposed limitations—limitations that we lock ourselves into when we think, “I can’t do this. I am scared. Should I do it? Can I demand this?”

We create many boxes like this. We feel comfortable in our box because we believe it’s predictable and secure. But that’s an illusion. We must break the box open, expand the box, then break it again. By doing so, the world will become bigger and bigger. We need to resist that urge to be comfortable and predictable, and instead, seek new experiences, try different roles, meet new people, and encourage young people to do the same.