The Chemist: Life of a Female Chemist

Updated: Mar 24, 2019

Hey everyone! Before I get to the post for this week, if you haven’t already backed our project, you can do so by heading to the site!

Okay, now let’s get into the topic. This week we decided to talk about the gender inequalities in our fields. Chemistry, as you may know or can already guess, isn’t swarming with women (minority or otherwise). Don’t get me wrong, there are women that are chemists, but in comparison to the men, it’s skewed. Then add on being a minority? That’s few and far between. In 2010, the National Science Foundation conducted a study and found that roughly 40% of all jobs in science and engineering were occupied by women. They also report that out of those employed in these fields with doctorates, only a third belong to women. Keep in mind this is all women, not just minorities so know those numbers are even lower. Suffice it to say, the space that I occupy as a double minority in chemistry is very different than my male counterparts.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You have to work twice as hard to get half of what they have” and honestly that’s been my life since I’ve entered STEM. People already come with preconceived notions about what I can and can’t do because I’m a woman AND because I’m black. They don’t expect you to be as knowledgable about your research or be able to create something innovative. I’ve even come across people that assume I am where I am to fill a quota, since I check two key boxes for diversity. Being a woman in a male-dominated field is a constant battle of proving yourself. You are always on guard and are always striving for people to take you seriously.

It could even be something like you’re trying to fix a part of an instrument or do something labor intensive. Your male counterparts are going to assume you need help because that’s not “a woman’s job” to be handy. Don’t even get me started on expressing yourself when something goes wrong. WOMEN ARE ENTITLED TO BE FRUSTRATED OR ANGRY WITHOUT BEING DEEMED OVERLY EMOTIONAL. It’s sad really, having to always be conscious of what you say, how you say it, and what you do. We learn at an early age to navigate these types of spaces so we don’t get looked down on and it’s truly BS. I never understand why Mike gets to have a bad day and be vocal about it, but I can’t.

It’s easy to be overlooked too. There’s not that many of us around so statistically the odds of being chosen to do something are low. You have to be the best thing since sliced bread to be noticed, while the boys can be mediocre and get applauded for it. And sometimes when we are chosen, it’s solely because we check those boxes and not because people are paying attention. But to that I say, milk it! If you’re given a golden opportunity, even if its for the wrong reasons, you show up and SHOW OUT! Prove that, unbeknownst to them, they made the right choice and never dim your light because they can’t see it from where they’re standing.

As women, we recognize these inequalities and that’s why I wanted to start #MacScientist. I wanted to give black women in STEM a platform to shine. I knew it was imperative that each one of us, teaches AND reaches another one. That’s the start to fixing the problem. Encouraging minority women to pursue STEM, to get PhDs, and to stay employed in these fields is how we begin to bridge the gap and normalize the fact that we are BOMB and we do phenonmenal work (if not better than the men).

What’s one way you think we need to bridge the gap on these gender inequalities? Tweet me some responses!

- The Chemist