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The Quad

The Quad

Crossing the Chasm: Women in STEM

Women are notoriously underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. According to a study published by the U.S. Department of Labor, women—while comprising around 47% of the workforce—constitute only around 25% of “computer and mathematical occupations” and only 34% of all STEM occupations. Moreover, at the university level, women make up only 21% of engineering majors and less than 20% of computer and information science majors (American Association of University Women). Many of the “dream” universities of students—often private and prestigious places of study—are burdened with even more extremes in the STEM gender gap. In Silicon Valley, STEM is extremely prevalent; data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics illuminates that STEM occupations constitute over twenty percent of all jobs—over three times the national average. The pervasiveness of STEM in Silicon Valley and the globe—as AI, computer science, and scientific advancements in medicine spread—makes it all the more important to evaluate how Sacred Heart Preparatory exemplifies and can continue to improve the presence of diverse voices in the world of STEM. Encouraging women in this field will bring a diverse set of perspectives and abilities to the table, thus ultimately broadening the horizon for all women in pursuit of their passions.
At the Prep, administrators and students alike are taking measures to encourage diverse participation in the fields of STEM. The percent makeup of advanced mathematics classes is encouraging themselves; according to Math Department Head Ms. Leslie Huang, female students comprise about forty percent of Calculus BC and roughly half of the Prep’s highest course in mathematics, Advanced Topics in Math Honors (ATMH). Ms. Huang also applauded the school’s representation of women in math educator roles; she pointed out that “since [she has] always been a teacher and this is a female-heavy career, [she hasn’t] really felt the effect of gender in the field.”
On top of applaudable female educators in the field, female students have and continue to excel in the various fields of STEM. Junior Samantha Pyle, who expressed her gratitude for the number of female math teachers, is certainly a strong woman in the field. Pyle runs the Mathematics Club along with Wiliam Bhatnagar and Katherine Ware. She emphasizes her love for this club, stating that “nobody there is judging anyone else for their math ability, it’s just—the part that I love about the club—is that you’re in a group of people who are interested in something you’re interested in. It’s that simple…it’s about improving your problem-solving abilities that apply to a lot more than math itself.”
Female students also excel in topics such as engineering—notably through robotics. The team has yielded great success recently—competing in competitions such as the First Tech Competition and excelling in their mechanical designs. One of the group’s leaders, Kelly Ho ‘25, expressed that gender has not negatively impacted her experience on the team and that robotics actively works to include a diverse range of voices, capabilities, and personalities.
However, there are still opportunities for Sacred Heart to further develop the voices of women within STEM courses and outside opportunities. For instance, robotics has always been male-dominated, which Kelly attributed to the “steep learning curve” of the activity. “Just getting your foot in the door is the hardest part of robotics,” Kelly says, “Most people go in with very little to no knowledge of robotics, and, I feel like maybe girls are discouraged because they don’t initially know as much as they would like… whereas a lot of guys will have more confidence in their future abilities.”
Another concern regarding the inclusion of girls in STEM is the stereotypes that surround females in these fields. As Pyle said, math goes against many female stereotypes—elegance, quietness, being artsy, and being thoughtful—given the practice often requires one right answer, little creativity, and sometimes brute force.
Diversity within STEM fields at the Prep must be cultivated through a continuation of the inclusive work administrators have fostered—the representation of women in STEM jobs and professions, continuing to offer one-on-one support for all students at Office Hours and other times, and encouraging all the excel in what they are passionate about—regardless of prior knowledge or experience.

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