The world of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has made many remarkable strides in the last 50 years, including in the medical laboratory arena. Increasing the population of women working in these fields is one of these progressions. In 2019, the number of female STEM professionals reached 27%, tripling the percentage from the 1970s.
But despite more women contributing their bright minds and innovations, STEM is still a male-dominated field. For example, men make up 52% of the entire US workforce, but dominate 73% of STEM professions.
To continue to correct this imbalance, there are several steps laboratories can take.
Mitigate Implicit Bias
Research conducted by Harvard University social ethics professor Mahzarin Banaji (et al) resoundingly demonstrates that even individuals who are intentionally minded about gender stereotypes can still hold unconscious biases. “Since the gender-science test was established in 1998,” a report by the American Association of University Women explains, “more than a half million people from around the world have taken it, and more than 70 percent of test takers more readily associated ‘male’ with science and ‘female’ with arts than the reverse.”
Women in STEM are aware of this belief and agree that they are less likely to receive a STEM position than their male counterparts.
This bias even more severely impacts women of color. In 2013, women held 20% of STEM positions, but only 2% were held by Black women. This, despite the fact that women of color have made many significant contributions to STEM since ancient times.
Scientific research underscores that these biases in STEM are unwarranted. A 2020 study published by PLOS ONE found that women perform the same as, if not better than, men in STEM fields, receiving higher grades in life sciences and physical sciences, and receiving higher overall GPAs.
To better support women in STEM, laboratories can identify biases with the Implicit Association Test, increase bias awareness, and thereby lessen their impact on hiring decisions.
Minimize the Wage Gap
In 2020, women earned incomes only 84% of that received by their male counterparts. While women in STEM do earn 33% more than those in non-STEM occupations, there is still a 14% gender wage gap in this field.
One possible reason women may be paid less is because women often do not negotiate their own initial salaries. But undermined confidence — particularly in the STEM field where women are under-represented — may also contribute to this discrepancy, according to a 2020 article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
All industries in STEM, including medical laboratories, can correct the wage gap simply by paying women equally, regardless of their position.
Promote a Healthy Work/Life Balance
A proper balance between personal and work life is crucial to anyone’s mental health. But female undergraduates in STEM majors fear they won’t have the chance to start a family if they pursue STEM research, and women with leadership roles in STEM indicate their positions came at the cost of their personal lives. Additionally, these STEM women leaders have reported feeling pressured to work harder and demonstrate more competency than the men in similar positions.
By promoting a positive work/life balance with reasonable working hours, scheduling flexibility, holistic wellness benefits, and other measures, laboratories can help women in STEM feel more supported, and therefore more confident.
LifeBrite Laboratories is dedicated to continuously supporting the women on our team, and celebrating their accomplishments. We look to women in STEM to provide innovation, new ideas, and breakthroughs in medical science. Learn more about our staff and services by calling (678) 433-0607 or connecting with us online.