Women persevere in male-dominated fields

In an effort to create opportunities for girls, women work together to combat the challenges many women face when entering science and technological fields and pursuing a career in a male-dominated field.


Ava Saydam

Working together…Helping girls get a feel for coding, Teach Girls Tech Club member Maria Souchet (left) walks a student through a micro-bit coding activity. The Teach Girls Tech Club ran the activity at the Souderton Charter School on November 18.

By teaching young women self-confidence and leadership skills, female mentors and organizations like Tech Girlz hope to give women the tools they need to succeed in traditionally male-dominated fields.
Many science and technology fields continue to be dominated by men. The women who work in these fields face many challenges in their workplace because of their gender.
According to Associate Dean for faculty at Drexel University College of Medicine Michele Kutzler, women have a hard time getting promoted in higher education to become professors.
“We see that there’s about 66% of men that are full professors and less than 45% are women,” Kutzler said.
Even when women do reach the professor status, there are still many barriers holding them back.
“There’s also this huge pay equity so even when I’m a full professor, if you compare me to my male counterparts, I make much less,” Kutzler said. “That’s not just at Drexel, it’s really a trend that’s national. Women tend to not get promoted, and even when they do make it through those ranks, we are seeing that there are some gender gaps around pay equity.”
Women face similar issues in the tech industry as well.
According to Tech Girlz Operations Manager Danica Pascavage, the tech industry is notoriously known as a “boys club.”
Women working in the field are surrounded by men and often face sexual harassment, especially those in their 20s and 30s.
“When women are in their 20s and 30s they tend to cut their hair short because, if they don’t, they will get hit on more by their colleagues,” Pascavage said. “So they cut their hair short and then, all of a sudden, when they turn 40 or 50, when they are not seen as cute, sexual objects anymore, they will change their hairstyles.”
According to Pascavage, the sexual harassment seen in the tech industry has declined since the rise of movements such as me too.
Pascavage said as women are being educated on the challenges they may face entering male-dominated fields they are “more likely to stand up for themselves.”
At Drexel, Kutzler mentors students and teaches them “graceful self-promotion.”
“There’s this imposter syndrome that a lot of women face where you’re in a male-dominated field and you’re just as qualified to be there, so we do a lot of training with what we call graceful self-promotion,” Kutzler said. “We teach women to learn how to build the room where they have confidence in their skills and to speak confidently and gracefully to promote their skills and their knowledge and their work.”
Organizations like Tech Girlz introduce girls to multiple forms of technology and encourage them to pursue their interests in science and technological fields.
According to Pascavage, many women enter the tech industry later in their careers because they “didn’t realize they would like it.”
During Tech Girlz workshops, young girls are exposed to different types of technology and shown that technology can be fun. The workshops are also a chance for girls to see themselves represented by their mentors and peers.
“The girls can look around and realize they’re not the only ones who like tech because when they get to high school and take a class they will most likely be one of the only girls in the room,” Pascavage said.
According to Merck Associate Director of Operations Carolina Perez, representation is an important part of getting women involved in male-dominated fields.
“The more representation we have from every single type of person: people of color, women and minorities that are represented the more the better,” Perez said.
At Souderton, the Teach Girls Tech Club works with local middle and elementary schools to introduce girls to science and tech fields and increase the representation of women in male-dominated fields.