Invisibility of the Gender Gap

Written by: Maryam Khan

A recent discussion with a relative on the women’s labor force made me realize that unfortunately, people still don’t understand the true reason for the underrepresentation of women in the male-dominated STEM field.  

Women’s labor rights have given women the opportunity to obtain degrees and enter the workforce. However, they continue to face significant barriers, even today.  

A recent 2021 study showed women represent nearly half the working force in the US. But only 27% are STEM workers, with the rest represented in lower-paying fields (Martinez & Christnacht, 2021). Many factors, including negative stereotyping and workplace harassment, contribute to this gender split.  

Gender stereotypes affect a women’s psychological ability to perform in school. Doubts placed on them by the school system at a young age underestimate their skills and push them away from STEM majors (AAUW, 2021). Teachers' biases also impact grades as females are often marked harder than their male counterparts, assuming they know less. Oppressed from reaching their full potential, they often pursue other degrees and settle for jobs traditionally conformed to women. In addition, the lack of female representation in the field limits the number of role models women can look up to, making it even harder for women to break through the oppressive norms. Intersectionality results in even fewer racial and ethnic minorities as examples, further widening the gender gap.  

For the group of women who do take the STEM route, other issues arise when working in the workplace. This male-dominated field perpetuates sexism and discrimination, making it an unfriendly and difficult environment to work in. Their gender works against them, impeding their success. Female STEM workers, also frequently encounter instances of sexual harassment. Being excluded, taunted, and looked down upon can have long-term impacts on a women’s mental health and career success.    

What can we do to push back against these oppressive barriers? Closing the gap involves generating confidence at a young age, having more exposure to female role models, providing gender equal opportunities, and recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in this field, while creating an inclusive workplace environment free from harassment, discrimination, and microaggressions.  

Ultimately, there is a need for systemic change. I was shocked to learn how invisible the gap is, and education and activism can bring this issue to light. Knowing why the problem exists and how it can be eliminated bring us one step closer to helping women break down gender barriers.  



Bureau, U. S. C. (2021, October 8). Women are nearly half of U.S. workforce but only 27% of STEM workers. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from  

ETH Zurich. (2016, January 12). Physics teachers give girls poorer grades for the exact same performance. PsyPost. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from  

Field, K. (2018, January 25). Why are women still choosing the lowest-paying jobs? The Atlantic. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from  

Funk, C., & Parker, K. (2020, August 21). Women and men in STEM often at odds over workplace equity. Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Project. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from  

Nixon , C. (2022, January 8). Sexism persists in STEM. All Together. Retrieved March 16, 2022, from  

The stem gap: Women and girls in Science, Technology, engineering and Mathematics. AAUW. (2022, March 3). Retrieved March 16, 2022, from  


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