Women STEMing into male-dominated fields

To access education and have a successful experience in a male-dominated class, women focus on themselves and their personal growth throughout their journey. Computer programming, STEM and Strength Training classes continue to be mostly males.


Abby Tuttle

Smashing glass ceilings…Pushing her limits, senior Emily Tuttle lifts at her local gym. For Tuttle, working hard has made her more comfortable in the weight room.

Exposing a younger generation of girls to traditionally male-dominated classes will help close the gender gap and ensure a better class experience for many young women in these subjects.
Senior Nora Richardson is the only female in her AP Computer Programming class of about 20 males.
According to Richardson, while her computer programming teachers have done a good job at “making the girls feel encouraged within a male-dominated class,” there is still a divide between the males and females inside the class and gender stereotypes that are portrayed upon females.
“It’s harder to fit in. You are immediately an outsider,” Richardson said. “There’s that barrier where I’m just not one of the guys.”
Senior Ava Saydam described walking into a male-dominated computer programming class for the first time as a “culture shock.” “The default is that you have to prove yourself,” Saydam said. “Your opinions are not worthy or reliable and you really have to prove yourself.”
Industry and Engineering pathway coordinator Jacqueline Lavely said that the gender gap in classes at the high school affects girls’ confidence and participation.
“A girl is less likely to raise their hand. If they do raise their hand and get the answer wrong then they probably won’t ask a question for a while,” Lavely said. “There is a confidence difference for how [males and females] participate in class.”
Senior Jacqueline McCoy experienced stress and anxiety before strength training class each day.
“I realized I started getting really anxious before [class,] but then I had to shift my mindset and try to be more positive,” McCoy said.
Senior Emily Tuttle said the weight room can be intimidating to beginners, especially girls who are entering a male-dominated strength training class.
“[Many women] feel self-conscious in the gym because of what they are lifting or they are not as strong as other people,” Tuttle said. “Something that I think about is how hard I work and [how] that is more important than the weight that I lift.”
Tuttle believes that it is important to focus on your hard work to keep yourself confident. “I feel less intimidated knowing that I’m proud of myself and I’m working hard,” Tuttle said.
According to Richardson in order to close the gender gap, there needs to be a change of thinking surrounding women in male-dominated fields.
“We need to stop putting off these stereotypes and stigmas around women joining certain fields,” Richardson said. “Women in these fields should not be shocking or something that men look down upon.”
Saydam said it is important to create awareness and get more girls involved in these typically male-dominated classes.
“Getting elementary and middle school girls exposed to STEM and technology will help them get interested in STEM and want to take those classes in high school,” Saydam said. Saydam created the Teach Girls Tech Club to run STEM activities with the local middle and elementary schools and teach girls about opportunities available to them in science.
Through this club, Saydam and other club members are able to serve as role models for what it looks like to be a woman in STEM.
Tuttle believes that it is important to have mentors that inspire and help girls as they begin lifting in a male-dominated field. “My dad got us started [lifting] when we were pretty young and learning what it was like to lift and how to do it the right way was really beneficial,” Tuttle said. “My sister was the one who really inspired me to get into it more seriously.”