Female representation in STEM Clubs is almost nonexistent

The number of female students who participate in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) clubs is diminishing. In some clubs, such as the Science Bowl, there is one, if any, female student. This statistic is startling, especially at Blake where gender equality is a universal objective.

Amy Frenkel ‘16 commented, “I believe that this gender gap is a symptom of a much more comprehensive issue. It’s difficult to locate exactly where this notion that ‘boys are better at math and science than girls’ originates, but I think that the idea is cultivated in the education system at a young age.” Frenkel highlighted the impact of stereotypes about women in STEM fields and underlined the need to combat these stereotypes everyday.

Lilly Bendel-Stenzel ‘15, one of the only girls on the Robotics Team, has experienced sexism when the team travels away from Blake. “I definitely face a lot of sexism, especially in the competitions. A lot of people ask me for my phone number, which is really uncomfortable, and they don’t ask the guys for their number,” Bendel-Stenzel said.

Jeff Trinh, Upper School Physics Teacher, Robotics Team faculty advisor and Green Team faculty adviser, spoke about his efforts to combat the situation: “I’ve made it a point for the team to make new members more comfortable, for example, getting people engaged in different parts. Sometimes, girls would be put in a certain role, such as communications, and I think the first part to making it more equal is getting people involved in different aspects.”

Science Bowl faculty adviser Dr. Deborah Weiss also has an interesting perspective; she added, “There are two dominant character traits that you must have to compete in these competitions, and it tends to be gender specific. You must have the ability to be wrong in a very public setting, which, I found, girls have a hard time with. Also, you have to be very competitive and buzz in as fast as you can, which girls sometimes struggle with. So, it’s not a problem of who’s smarter, girls or boys, it’s just who has these traits.” Weiss argues that it isn’t about the intelligence or competence of girls to be able to compete in Science Bowl, it’s really about specific character traits that tend to be more common amongst boys.

Daniel Jing ‘17, member of the Math Team, commented on the apparent cycle of female discouragement in STEM clubs: “I think that there is an inequality because there really aren’t that many girls already in the club, and it seems that it’s really discouraging for girls to join.” As there are already not very many females participating in STEM clubs, it can be hard for other girls to get the courage to join due to the fear that they are the only females participating. This cycle continues to prevent more and more females to join STEM clubs.

Although the breaking of any cycle is daunting, it is necessary to do so in order to create a more equal atmosphere around STEM clubs and the academic world in general.