written by
Michele Heyward

It’s Not Opting Out For Minority Women In STEM....

Career WocInSTEM Anti-racism career advancement DiversityandInclusion 6 min read

Today, minority women are working in every industry imaginable. They have taken on roles of tank mechanics to aircraft technicians, and so on. They are doing jobs that women, a generation or two ago, could only have dreamt of. But, still, the number of minority women in STEM remains distressingly low.

Where are the minority women in STEM leadership?

Imagine going to work every day with a haunting need to protect yourself from bias, negative attention, bullying, and unfair treatment. When at work, you have a constant need to save yourself from racial slurs, hurtful situations, insults wrapped up in heedless jokes, and unnecessary social interactions where you are treated as an outcast.

Imagine waking up every day with the resilience of a mountain to take on a day, but coming back with the plethora of exclusion, discrimination, and painful workplace experience. Imagine how emotionally taxing that can be. This is the constant state of minority women in STEM. We all have heard the high-profile stories of minority women joining the tech industry and leaving it. But, how many of us have considered the experience and underrepresentation of these women in the tech sector?

Minority women (or women in general) do not study STEM and take on these roles only to leave when they expect to thrive and move up the career ladder. They do not resign willingly, but years of abusive workplace conditioning drive them out the door.

It is not opting out for minority women; they aren’t left with any choice but to leave. And here’s all you need to know why, if you don’t already:

Photographer: You X Ventures | Source: Unsplash


The women in STEM already face unique challenges. Women in these fields are faced with an internal bias, discrimination, unfairness, gender stereotyping, and underrepresentation among others. Underrepresented women face all these challenges alongside additional prejudice, inadequate attention, and misogyny because of their race or color.

The discrimination and bias are not only driving women away from their jobs but pushing them away from their fields, as early as during their undergraduate degrees. There aren’t fewer women in STEM because they dislike it. They are fewer because they don’t like being discriminated against.

Black, Latina, and indigenous women are excluded from promotions, workplace benefits, mentorship, and networking for growth. When they share their ideas, they are not taken seriously and are overlooked most of the time. They experience and observe unfair treatment more than white women and men. Their cultural difference is presented in such a way that it questions their technical capability and competence when compared to their counterparts.

A study by Catalyst.org revealed that women of color & minority women were more likely to cite unfairness as a major reason for leaving than white women. Similarly, in another research by PEW Center, a minority woman respondent stated that:

“People automatically assume I am the secretary, or in a less technical role because I am female. This makes it difficult for me to build a technical network to get my work done. People will call on my male co-workers, but not call on me.”

Minority women are marginalized and ignored. They are expected to conform to white culture in the technology sector. They are present but invisible, speaking but being unheard of. They are expected to tolerate the male arrogance of assuming that they should be subordinates and must come to learn from them because they know better.


Minority women in STEM face the issue of salary disparity more than any other field. They are overlooked for promotions, and their performance reviews are evaluated based on their cultural fit. According to research, nearly half the minority women change or opt-out of their STEM jobs because of the salary gap. The other leaves due to the lack of promotional opportunities.

Four female engineers from diverse backgrounds sued Google in 2018 with a gender pay lawsuit. The company paid female engineers less than male engineers with the same positions, job roles, work responsibilities, and day-to-day tasks. This is not uncommon. 30% of underrepresented women reported being passed over for promotion, a percentage significantly higher than white women.

When the tech giant Google that prides itself on diversity and inclusion can overlook minority women's competency then what can we expect from other, less public companies?


The inclusion of minority women in tech is often considered as a charity from the companies. These employers have unreasonable expectations for underrepresented women to conform to the white culture. They are expected to be okay with white people leading them in the workplace and truncating their growth and experience. The C-suite, board of directors, and executives include minority women in their teams as an act of charity. They are expected to accept this and abide by everything being said and done without raising their voice. It is a common conception that as long as there are no racial slurs, n-word, and abuse, these women should be fine.

According to a tech levers study of why people voluntarily left their jobs in tech, one in three women left their job because they did not like their workplace climate, culture, and their boss. They are pushed to succumb to the idea that they were only hired because of their minority status and the company’s drive to increase diversity and inclusion.

Photographer: Christina @ wocintechchat.com | Source: Unsplash


Among the other problems that minority women have to face in STEM, gender stereotyping, and bullying based on cultural difference outdo all. They are not acknowledged, made fun of, and have to incur workplace abuse every day. Even with the same degree and work experience, their acceptance into organizational networks is insignificant.

They are constantly subjected to jokes, where they aren’t viewed as technical and competent enough. Underrepresented men and women experienced stereotyping at rates almost twice as high as their white colleagues. This leads to self-preservation and the urge to leave the toxic, and abusive workplace. Those who leave due to excessive bullying and stereotyping are not different from their counterparts in confidence in their abilities, or the positive outcomes expected from performing their related tasks. They leave because they are not only unacknowledged, but they are walked over, bullied, and are labeled as not being skilled enough.

Do you know that women make up 50% of the U.S. population and only 25% of the tech workforce? African American or Latinx adults combined make up 30% of the nation’s population, but just 15% of the tech workforce.

These minority women aren’t leaving their careers. They are leaving people associated with these careers. They are leaving their jobs. They are leaving exclusion and discrimination. They are leaving a hostile work environment. They are leaving due to less effective feedback. They are leaving due to barriers in their advancement. They are leaving due to bullying and harassment.

They are leaving due to dozens of reasons but their ability & willingness to work in STEM isn’t one of them.

This is the time for us to make a choice. What are we striving to do to pull apart white supremacy in the technology sector? Are you going to be one of those who will overlook the challenges minority women face in STEM or will dismantle white dominance and break up the old way of doing things?

Career STEM Workplace WoCinSTEM Career Advancement Women of Color in STEM Workplace Culture Diversity and Inclusion