What is STEMinism?
STEMinism is a portmanteau that combines the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) with feminism. STEMinists believe women should have equal opportunities and representation in the STEM fields, which are typically male-dominated. STEMinists are individuals who support the STEMinism movement.
Activists developed the STEMinism movement in response to the scant representation of women in STEM fields to address their underrepresentation in early and higher education. About two-thirds of those employed in STEM fields are men, according to a report from National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES). The STEMinism movement also pushes for equality for racial minorities, who are also underrepresented.
NSF and NCSES data show there has been an increase in those employed in STEM fields from 2011-2021. However, the increase of minorities in STEM fields -- including women and non-Caucasian races -- has not increased at a proportionate level, and there is still underrepresentation.
Some critics have argued that too much emphasis has been placed on the individual effort to encourage girls to go into STEM disciplines. They feel that not enough has been done to change institutional biases that women and racial minorities are not capable of performing or comprehending sciences. Students surveyed in an Eastern Carolina University study said they focused on individualized efforts but not on some of the obstacles in front of them.
Why is STEMinism important?
STEMinism recognizes that the lack of diversity in STEM fields has broader global implications. Many of the innovations from women have had consequential outcomes. One such example is the invention of frequency hopping by actress Hedy Lamarr. Not only did it have a profound impact on the war effort in World War II, but that same technology played a role in the creation of Wi-Fi. With the underrepresentation of women and racial minorities, the industry is not accessing its entire talent pool for valuable inventions, resources and breakthroughs.
The STEMinism movement aims to make women and other minorities feel welcomed, supported and valued in the field. This means dealing with attitudes and biases, as well as issues such as discrimination and harassment.
The good news is that there has been progress in recent years. Women's share of the STEM workforce grew at a faster rate over the past 10 years when compared to men, according to NSF and NCSES. Between 2011 and 2021, the number of women in the STEM workforce increased by 31%. Women make up 35% of the STEM workforce in 2021 compared to 32% in 2011.
Famous STEMinists in history
There are many women in history who left their mark on the STEM field. Here are a few of the most notable STEMinists and their contributions.
- Ada Lovelace. Considered to be the world's first computer programmer, Lovelace wrote the first algorithm for the first computer, Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine. She excelled in mathematics and was privately tutored in the subject.
- Marie Curie. A physicist and chemist, Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She was also the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice and win in different scientific fields -- physics and chemistry. She is best known for her work on radiography and pioneered mobile X-ray machines.
- Hedy Lamarr. Lamarr was a successful Hollywood actress and producer, but she also devised a system called frequency hopping to make guided torpedoes during World War II. Frequency hopping is the technology behind Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. She was dubbed the "The mother of Wi-Fi."
- Chien-Shiung Wu. Wu was an American nuclear physicist. She made significant contributions to the Manhattan Project -- which was a research and development project to produce the first nuclear weapons during World War II. Wu's nickname was "The queen of nuclear research."
- Grace Hopper. Hopper was a computer scientist and U.S. Navy rear admiral. She developed one of the first high-level programming languages, COBOL, which is still used on mainframes to this day. Some have said that she coined the term computer bug.
- Rosalind Franklin. A chemist and X-ray crystallographer, Franklin made significant contributions to the understanding of DNA structure. Her work played a crucial role in the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA. However, she was not fully credited for her contributions until after her death.
- Katherine Johnson. Johnson was a mathematician with NASA. She calculated the trajectories for many early space missions by hand. Because computers were in the early development stages and not trusted by the astronauts -- including John Glenn -- she was asked to check the calculations.
There are many successful women in tech today, too. Read more about some of the most influential women in tech today.