Skip to content ↓

Not Everyone Wants to Be a Woman in STEM

As a collective of predominantly female secondary school students, I am sure that we have all at one time or another been referred to as ‘women in STEM’. Whether it be in an assembly designed to inspire, a passing comment or a joke, the phrase is everywhere around us.  

The movement itself comes with the best of intentions, as it is true that there is a large disparity between men and women working in STEM related fields, both in terms of numbers and the gender pay gap, something that encouraging young women to pursue scientific interests aims to combat. However, this is by no means a one size fits all solution; not everyone wants to be a woman in STEM.  

The image of this so-called ‘woman in STEM’ is that of a confident, lab-coat laden, financially stable woman fighting her way through the swamp of gender bias armed with her extraordinary intelligence, originality, resilience, and a cavalry of fellow ‘women in STEM’ charging behind her. As much as we may deny it, these qualities are stereotypically masculine, and feed the false narrative that a truly progressive, feminist woman exhibits traditionally masculine traits.  

Projected masculinity is not exclusive to this. From ‘wearing the trousers’ in a relationship, to power suits and shoulder pads designed to create a broader, more masculine frame, it is near impossible to find a feminist movement without glimmers of projected masculinity.  

For girls like me, interested in the humanities and creative disciplines, it can become a toxic message to be pummelled with; the increased value placed upon those who show interest and promise in the scientific fields undermines the others of us whose interests lie elsewhere. Projected masculinity only enhances this problem, as it implies that those not seeking traditionally masculine roles are not committed to feminism and ‘smashing the patriarchy’, which is not at all true.   

Those who choose to go into stereotypically female dominated fields such as teaching and child-care often aren’t positively recognised, yet these roles are still highly sought after and valued in our society, to the point where men are praised for taking them on. This creates a double standard, as the same action is at once a predictable one for women and a shocking, unique, and impressive one for men. In particular, within primary education men make up only 14% of nursery and primary teachers, yet 26.9% of head teachers, indicating the readiness to promote and empower male members of a female dominated field. 

However, this lack of enthusiasm towards the humanities is utterly unsupported, as, in our society, the creative and social industries are hugely influential, and their developments often lead to great societal progression. This is often seen in the products of the film industry, a world that has been under societal spotlight since its establishment, both through the idolisation of celebrities and influence of the content it addresses. ‘Victim,’ a 1961 film, documents the story of a closeted lawyer risking his career and lifestyle by defending a previous lover who committed suicide after being imprisoned for homosexuality, illegal at the time. The film was revolutionary, seen as the first to empathise with a gay protagonist. Against the backdrop of British society’s ingrained homophobia, it had a significant social and political impact, changing both minds and policies. It has since been revealed that the film’s content swayed the government’s decision to decriminalise homosexuality in 1967, an unquantifiable shift in societal attitude, all provoked by the creative industries.  

That is not to say that STEM related fields are unable to match this influence, only to indicate that the focus should not be so narrow as to exclude the humanities. Crucially, it is essential to acknowledge that STEM subjects and careers are not the only worthwhile pursuits, and the fields attached to the humanities also provide scope to make a mark on the world, leaving it a better, more inclusive place than you found it. 

This is all to clarify that not everyone wants to be a ‘woman in STEM,’ nor should everyone be. 

By Ruby, Year 13

Image Credit: Medium


School workforce in England, Reporting year 2022 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK ( 

Increasing the number of male primary school teachers - House of Commons Library ( 

The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Tonbridge Grammar School.