Breaking Barriers in STEM: Dr. Natanya Wachtel Reveals Challenges Faced as a Female Founder and Urges Men to Step Up as Allies

Gender inequality in STEM is prominent – with fewer opportunities to start and establish themselves in the field, women go through a lot to have successful careers. According to a recent survey, only 34% of the total STEM workforce is made up of women in the USA, with only 25.9% of females in executive roles. 

Thus, women in STEM face an uphill battle to shatter the glass ceiling and overcome unfair bias, inevitably working twice as hard as their male counterparts. Many have voiced their concerns, raising awareness about their struggles and suggesting solutions. Dr. Natanya Wachtel is one such professional.

With a two-decade career and an incredible portfolio, Dr. Natanya is a known name in the wellness and health industry. She is leading women in various innovative ventures. She is the founding partner of New Solutions Network, a leading name in customer-centric marketing and commercialization solutions, and, a mental wellness application for struggling GenZ. Her work with The Chopra Foundation allows her to enhance the scope of Western medicine with Eastern practices like yoga, meditation, gut health, psychedelics, etc.

The Epidemic of Gender-Oriented Obstacles

Given an extraordinary career in STEM, Dr. Natanya also reflects on the challenges she had to navigate. Recalling her days as a student in STEM, she notes the low number of females in the science departments due to the dominant male culture. 

Later, in the professional sector, women endure unfair treatment, wage gaps, and countless other challenges while maintaining pristine job records. Yet, they are often judged for being incapable, ridiculed for their ‘time of the month’ or ‘she won’t be able to deal with leadership roles now that she is pregnant.’

Dr. Natanya points out that it does not matter if a woman is giving her hundred and one percent at the job; despite these natural phenomena, she is still judged by the office based on her gender.

Talking about her pregnancies and health problems, Dr. Natanya notes, “Through each of those experiences, I felt like I couldn’t express how I felt because that would show weakness, that you’re unreliable, or that you’re too distracted with family stuff. I just felt like I had to be this version that wasn’t me. I didn’t even realize it, but it was definitely something that guided much of my career and my feeling about how I had to present myself.”

Unlike the dads in corporate, female workers/mothers are also guilt-tripped on all fronts: other moms treat them as bad mothers while their colleagues treat them as inefficient workers due to family obligations. Dr. Natanya recalls her experience of dealing with such stay-at-home moms and fellow workers, “I felt like they were suggesting I was less of a mom. And then at work, I was less of a ‘good worker’ if I indicated anything about being a mom.”

On top of this, when a woman deals with office operations efficiently, her gender is disregarded – the male associates consider her ‘one of the guys,’ as if her being a woman should have hindered her.

There is also the problem of internalized sexism – in a competitive environment, where your gender can, unfortunately, put you at a disadvantage, women often internalize sexism and pit against each other.

Potential Solutions

Given the challenges, Dr. Natanya believes that more women should be given executive positions to dismantle the baseless stereotypes. Recognizing that situation is harder for BIPOC women, Dr. Natanya joined as a Board Chair to provide scholarships and mentorship to women of color so that the workforce can be diversified.

She has also made significant efforts that honor and call for continued male allyship – she believes that disparity in STEM is not just an issue for women and other minority groups. Bias and sexism harm all in the long run. Thus, male colleagues can and should strive to continue to make efforts to curb sexism. Calling out their male friend for a sexist joke, not disregarding or ridiculing a fellow worker based on gender, and celebrating a female colleague’s success are small ways that can lead to lasting solutions.

We cannot move forward as a society if we allow these destructive forces to guide us. It’s time for a change. We must create a work environment that is inclusive and accepting of all, regardless of gender or any other factor. Thankfully, she has shared many examples of men being the ultimate champions for others, too.

With her efforts, Dr. Natanya is truly changing the game in the industry, paving the way for future female leaders. You can visit Dr. Natanya’s website for information on her projects. Look through her excellent portfolio on her LinkedIn for inspiration.

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