September 10, 2019
Issue 10 2019

Sexism in STEM organisations

Senior lecturer at Massey Manawatū’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing Dr. Debalina Dutta has done a lot of research around gender gaps in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) organisations. 

After completing her Doctorate of Philosophy in 2012, Debalina moved to Singapore to teach and continue with her research. She eventually got funding to conduct the research and explored into what makes women stay and have resilience in such disadvantaged organisations.

“I interviewed 45 women in STEM organisations not only about why is there this under representation of women [in STEM organisations] but also the grit, courage, and the determination of women that decide to stay and who decide to make these situations work for them,” she said.

Through Debalina’s research, one case stood out where a female engineer was denied access to the bridge she had constructed. The contractor said that the workers would refuse to work on it if a woman was present because it was ‘bad luck’.

Dutta spoke of other instances where women going to their jobs on construction sites would witness male contractors throwing salt around because the women were ‘bringing bad luck’ to the construction.

“I found solace in these stories and such amazing resilience across these stories from all around the world,” she explained.

“There is still so much social conditioning on what we [women] can and cannot do it’s really heartbreaking to see that.”

Dutta has personally experienced sexism when applying for teaching jobs while being pregnant.

 “I was told ‘we don’t have any provision for pregnant women teaching this semester.’ I couldn’t believe he was telling me this to my face.” she said.

Dr. Debalina Dutta has now gone on to publish three papers.

“To get your work validated feels really good.”