Bridging the STEM gender gap

Although women fill 47% of U.S. jobs, they only hold 24% of jobs in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.* Despite an increase in awareness regarding gender inequity, women are still underrepresented in STEM careers.

It’s time to bridge the gender gap and open the doors into the scientific and engineering fields for women. Hear from Dr. Catherine Murphy, professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois, co-author of Chemistry – The Central Science,and senior editor of the Journal of Physical Chemistry, about her STEM journey and how to overcome obstacles that women in these fields face.

Why did you choose to study chemistry?

I always liked nature and science from a young age and had great chemistry teachers in junior high and high school, so I became a chemistry major in college.

How have you dealt with competition and the gender gap in the STEM field?

My advice is to do good work and eventually reasonable people will recognize it. I was the first woman hired on the tenure track at my previous university (University of South Carolina in 1993), and the faculty there really were excellent at making sure I had good mentoring.

How has technology changed your life, particularly in STEM education?

Technology makes it possible for me to work anywhere, all the time. That’s both good and bad! I use a little technology when I teach classes, so students can text answers rather than raise their hand.

What advice would you give to women wanting to enter a STEM field?

You can do it! Double down on math and read widely to find your technical interests. Don’t let one not-great instructor in an intro class discourage what could be a lifetime of scientific joy.

Learn more about Professor Murphy

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*Source: Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, 2017 report

About the author:

Catherine J. Murphy

Catherine J. Murphy holds a PhD in Chemistry and is a professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois. She has done outstanding work in both research and teaching. Dr. Murphy has been honored for both as a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellow, and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award winner. Since 2011, she has served as deputy editor for the Journal of Physical Chemistry C. Professor Murphy’s research program focuses on the synthesis, optical properties, surface chemistry, biological applications, and environmental implications of colloidal inorganic nanomaterials.