A common misconception about sexism in the field of science is that it must be explicit. Many are quick to argue that hardly anybody literally tells women that they can’t become doctors, or they can’t go into engineering, so there must be inherent equality for everyone in these fields. What they fail to realize, however, is the toxic environment surrounding women in STEM fields and the ridiculous standards that they are upheld to compared to their male counterparts. Women in science are quick to become the scapegoats for error and their intentions often misdiagnosed. While we have come a long way as a society, from literally disallowing women to enter these fields to kind of tolerating it, to very recent movements encouraging it, there clearly is still an inherent lack of equal treatment among men and women.

To give my own anecdote, I will start with some history of my high school. To say that the students of my school were overachievers would be an understatement. Located just a stone’s throw from the prestigious university, about thirty graduating seniors every year from Princeton High School went on to study undergraduate at Princeton University. Although it was a public school, its academic reputation and prestige did not go unnoticed and it was an attractive and affordable choice for many parents hoping to set their child on their best foot forward. Unfortunately this meant that the pressure and stakes were as high as they could be. Without going into detail on the levels and prevalence of stress and anxiety at my high school, it would be very accurate to say that, when it came to colleges, it was a competitive, emotional mess. When students got rejected from their top choices that they expected to get into, they decided to direct their failures upon the successes of other students rather than looking inward at their own eligibility.

I am all too familiar with countless students, many my own friends, targeting their vitriol towards any high-achieving female student they see. Assumptions were thrown around about the presumed test scores or academic drive of any girl who made it into MIT, Carnegie Mellon, or Cornell  — Some of the most contentious spots for any prospective engineer. Girls who had made a reputation as being a leader in clubs that promote girls in stem, or actively developing independent projects were accused of “just being fake” to appeal to admissions. I’ve heard the argument that a girl must suck at computer science because “she just seems so bitchy”. Implicit in all of these arguments is the assumption that all males in STEM are intelligent, genuine, and hard working, while all females in STEM are dimwitted, fake, and emotional. We can see the this issue present in nearly all facets of our society, most notable in the most recent presidential election where an extremely qualified candidate was dismissed for concerns about her control over her emotion or her “shrill” attitude, while countless exceptions were made for the personality flaws of her male opposition.

I think that it’s especially important that we remember that the primary force of sexism in the field of STEM, as well as most everywhere else in society, is one of psyche rather than physical barriers. Of course women are allowed to attend engineering school and have been for a little while now, but the expectations that are set for them in the minds of their colleagues are almost always going to be far greater than those of their male counterparts due to an expectation for a woman to prove her worth or else suffer accusations of inadequacy.