Women in STEM on what it's like working in a male dominated industry


On International Day of the Girl, SBS News hears from female scientists from across the globe.

More women than ever before are pursuing science subjects in higher education and graduating with PhDs in STEM fields. 

Yet women represent just 29 per cent of the world’s researchers.

To mark International Day of the Girl on Thursday, SBS News heard from young, female computer scientists and mathematicians from across the globe about their roles today and their hopes for the future.  

Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, India

Rajalakshmi Nandakumar

“The biggest barriers I would say, is social perception - the fact that the STEM fields is only meant for men. The women that are better qualified or equally qualified are not encouraged enough, are not provided equal resources to actually succeed or pursue the STEM fields.”

Agnes Kiss, Hungary

Agnes Kiss, Hungary

“We trust ourselves less than men do. Psychologically, women tend to think about themselves in a lesser way then men do.

"I am hopeful about the future.”

Mahtab Miromeni, Iran/Australia

Mahtab Miromeni, Iran/Australia

"For women there are a lot of different challenges, starting a family, for example, is one. Many women, after having a family, face challenges in terms of progressing with their career. It’s very important to have support in those stages.

"[That includes] child support in conferences so women are able to travel and stay visible with their peers, and also bring along their children if they need to. It is very important for  women to continue to network within their career and sometimes it’s difficult with parent responsibilities."

Lack of visibility 

Studies show women lack representation in senior ranks in science, while few have won Nobel prizes.

Last week, Donna Strickland was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics, and much of the focus around her achievement was on the fact that she was female.

Ms Strickland was the first woman to win the award in 55 years and only third woman in history to win the award.

At last month’s Heidelberg Laureate Forum, an annual event that sees 200 young mathematicians and computer scientists gather in Germany for a week-long conference, the lack of female laureates in those fields was palpable.

Half of the 200 young researchers were women, but not one of the more than 30 laureates was female. Australian mathematician Becky Armstrong was there.

Becky Armstrong, Australia

Becky Armstrong, Australia

"One reason is these prizes have age limits, so you can’t get a Fields Medal if you’re older than 40 and they were talking about females losing some time because they’re having families." 

Chika O Yinka-Banjo, Nigeria

Chika O Yinka-Banjo, Nigeria

“There is something about encouragement, there is something about inspiring women, when women see women excel in areas they feel is only men, it makes them more motivated. So having female laureates will actually go a long way to motivate women, to know they can achieve their heights.”

Harini Dananjani Kolmunna, Sri Lanka

Harini, Sri Lanka

“There’s a huge trend to move into sciences and engineering by the girls and we will hope that they will excel and the same as the males, and we will be expecting more to come. There is no barrier or obstacles for girls to excel just as a boy or man.”

Noor Karishma, India

Noor, India

“There is a improvement happening, like the recent ‘Manned Mission’  from the Indian Space Research being led by only female researchers  - that is a great example to say women are moving forward."

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch