The U.S. Embassy in Bern is thrilled to announce the winners of the Women’s History Month Essay Competition! After evaluating the submissions, the panel selected three outstanding winners. We extend our congratulations to all the winners for their exceptional work and insightful consideration of the essay topic. The essays submitted demonstrated a deep understanding and appreciation for the accomplishments and struggles of women in STEM, and they shed light on the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Students from across Switzerland and Liechtenstein submitted essays to answer the following question:
If women were more active in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) throughout history, would the world be different today? How?
Congratulations to our winners, Milo, Giulia, and Basil! We encourage you to read the winning essays below.
Milo, Age 17
Women have historically been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. One may wonder why and the answer is quite simple: the access has been blocked by men. This results in a significant lack of diversity in the STEM workforce, as well as a missed opportunity for the development of science and technology that could have been realized if women had been allowed to be more active in these fields throughout history. The question is, “If women would have been more active in STEM throughout history, would the world be different ? How ?”
First, women’s involvement in STEM throughout history could have had a significant impact on the scientific and technological advances that have made the world what it is today. If we look back, we can discover the impact that innovations brought by women have had. Ada Lovelace had an impact on our actual world, notably in the IT world. She is known to have created the first informatic program. Moreover, Rosalind Franklin is also known for her discoveries in biology such as DNA’s structure. Thus, we can see that women have potential in STEM and could have achieved many innovations.
If women had had a place in this world, it would have been an open door to other women in this world. They could have had women to identify with and therefore want to become like them. This would have created a diverse workforce and thus create diversity in the STEM sector. For example, women have a different perspective on the world as well as different needs. We would have been able to deal more quickly with problems such as menstrual period and contraception. They would have created a better comfort as well as technological and medical progress for example for needs forgotten and unknown by men.
Speaking of men, thanks to a democratization of the STEM world among women. The latter could have reached independence and emancipation more quickly. Let me explain : we know that these are well paid jobs, even considering the gap in salaries between men and women, they are rather high salaries. This would make it easier for women to create their own environment, for example, the creation of their own STEM companies, more diversified jobs and therefore, thanks to women entrepreneurs, to reduce the wage gap. As a result, there would be more businesses and therefore lower unemployment. This would have created a redistribution of social classes.
Finally, the historical underrepresentation of women in STEM fields has resulted in missed opportunities to make meaningful contributions to scientific and technological advances, a lack of diversity in the STEM workforce, and limited economic and social benefits. Despite all these convincing reasons to open the doors to women, we cannot change history, whether we like it or not. If women had been able to contribute more in STEM, the world would have been different, and maybe cars would not have had four wheels. Nevertheless, there is still work to be done to establish equality in this sector. In 2022, at the EPFL, women represented only 30.5% of all students. This is why it is important to recognize the potential of women in this field. We need to make them recognize that they have the capacity and that they need to gain the confidence to follow their ideas.
Giulia, Age 15
“Women Always Rise Above”
As a society, we all know that the most groundbreaking inventions of mankind have been made by men. We ask ourselves if our lives would be any different if women had participated more in the so-called “STEM”, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. However, it is not new that women were considered inferior throughout history and therefore forbidden to participate in any scientific education. Regarding the circumstances, a world where women are our superior leaders seems almost impossible. Of course, highly influential women have contributed to our knowledge today, such as Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Marie Curie. However, those women were either authors or, like Marie Curie, suppressed from science. Therefore, it is not my intention to overthink what could have been or would have been if women managed to break through their reputations. In my essay, I am going to conduct a thought experiment. I am going to take my readers on a journey to a fictional world where women are our superior and fearless leaders that rule the science industry.
June 7th, 1887, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA After countless experiments, calculations, and observations, scientists Margot McLean and Tessa Brightman have successfully completed the periodic table in chemistry. “Our happiness cannot be put into words,” Brightman says for the New York Times. “The fact is we could not have done it without our smart husbands that constantly enriched us and always had our backs.”
March 25th, 1894, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Charlotte Crawford has managed to solve a mathematical problem that has employed mathematicians for many years: Partial division. The 23-year-old for the New York Times: “I am incredibly grateful for my family that has always supported me and never stopped even when I was on the verge of giving up.”
If we examine those two fictional inventions in the real world, we quickly recognize that there is one severe distinction between men and women in STEM: Women will never fail to appreciate the ones that supported them and give them credit. Men, however, tend to portray themselves as the absolute and unbeatable force, which leads them to be too proud to admit that they had a woman’s assistance.
This leads me to emphasize my final point: No matter who dominates STEM, humanity will make necessary discoveries sooner or later. But if women were in a position to dominate STEM, the industry would be a lot less tense and a lot more supportive and collaborative.
Basil, Age 15
Throughout history women have been underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It is only in recent times that women have been encouraged to pursue careers in STEM. However, would the world be different today? My answer to this question is an undeniable “yes”. In this essay I will examine the role of women in STEM and how their contributions would have impacted the world.
If we consider female scientists from the past, such as Marie Curie it is evident that academic careers weren’t widely available to women. Marie Curie for example had to enroll in a so called “floating university”, because she wasn’t allowed to attend higher education in Poland. She eventually saved up enough money to travel to Paris, where she earned herself a physics and mathematics degree and started her research. To this day she remains the only person to have been rewarded two Nobel laureates in different fields.
If more women like her had been encouraged to be active in STEM, the world would be a different place today. For starters the number of innovations and discoveries made in STEM subjects would have been far greater. Women have unique perspectives and ways of approaching problems that would have been invaluable to the fields of STEM. In medicine for example, where Marie Curie made large contributions in her later life, women’s experiences and approaches would certainly have influenced the development of drugs, giving greater attention to treatments which predominantly affect women.
Furthermore, if women had been allowed to be more active in STEM it would very likely have a lasting impact on women’s influence today. If we consider STEM fields as they currently are there is still an ongoing underrepresentation of women. Additionally to that many female scientist have to face challenges on a daily basis which would have otherwise not been a problem for them to deal with. Lastly the gender pay gap which in STEM is to this day still very existent could have been reduced if not eliminated if there had been a larger female presence.
Besides the points I’ve already mentioned I want to also highlight the importance of role models. For young women striving to work in STEM this can be a major force pushing them to give it there best. Although there are a few, like Marie Curie, there would have definitely been more female role models for women to look up to in turn motivating numerous to find their passion in the fields of STEM.
In conclusion I can say that the world we live in today would be remarkably different, if women had historically been more active in STEM. Firstly there’d be countless new inventions and discoveries thanks to the unique ways women can view the world. As a consequence women would have numerous additional role models to look up to and strive towards all the while building up a more just and diverse environment in the process for future generations to pursue and achieve their goals in.