Written by: Chinna Orish  (MBBS, Ph.D.) University of PortHarcourt


The leaky pipeline phenomenon, where women are underrepresented and often drop out at various stages of their careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields,The leaky pipeline represents a significant loss of talent and potential for industries and society as a whole. It can be attributed to a combination of complex and interconnected factors

Barriers of the leaky pipeline for women in STEM:

Gender Bias:  Gender bias has become a canker worm which has eaten into the fabric of the nation. Deep-rooted societal biases persist, suggesting that STEM fields are more suited to men, while women are better suited for other professions. There is implicit biases in hiring and promotion with notion that women are sometimes being perceived as less competent or less suitable for leadership positions. This also influence decision-making, including the evaluation of women’s contributions, ideas, and skills in STEM environments. These biases can discourage women from pursuing STEM careers and can lead to a lack of confidence and self-doubt hence few of them advancing in their career as may leak out on their way to greater heights.

Educational Barriers: Women may face barriers in education, including subtle biases from teachers and peers that can affect their confidence and interest in STEM subjects. Stereotype threat, where individuals worry about confirming negative stereotypes about their group, can also impact academic performance.

Workplace Culture: STEM fields have often been characterized by a male-dominated culture that may not be welcoming or inclusive for women. This can lead to feelings of isolation, harassment, and discrimination, all of which can drive women out of STEM careers.

Family and Work-Life Balance: The demands of STEM careers, particularly in research and academia, can be all-encompassing, making it difficult for women to balance family responsibilities with their work. A lack of support in terms of parental leave, flexible work hours, and childcare options can further exacerbate this issue.

Limited Networking Opportunities: Networking is crucial for career advancement, but women may have fewer opportunities to network due to their under-representation in STEM as well as discrimination and racism. This can impact their access to collaborations, research funding, and job opportunities.

Lack of Support and Mentoring:  Mentor ship remains a single avenue to climb the academia ladder faster however, Women may encounter challenges in finding mentors and sponsors who can guide their careers and advocate for their advancement within STEM organizations.

Lack of childcare support

Lack of childcare support” as one of the challenges contributing to the leaky pipeline for women in STEM. This is a crucial aspect, as it highlights the difficulties women face in balancing their careers in STEM with family responsibilities.


Efforts to address the leaky pipeline in STEM should be a holistic one adopting combination of policy changes, cultural shifts, and individual actions to create more inclusive and equitable environments for women in these fields. Encouraging girls’ interest in STEM from a young age, providing mentorship and support, promoting diversity and inclusion, and addressing bias are all steps towards mitigating this deadly phenomenon.

Bridging the leaky pipeline in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields to increase the representation and retention of women requires a multifaceted approach involving individuals, organizations, and institutions. Here are some tips to help bridge the leaky pipeline:

Promotion of Early Interest and Education:

Young girls should be encouraged to explore and develop an interest in STEM subjects through educational programs and activities by organizing more outreaches . There is need to also provide access to STEM-related resources and role models from a young age to inspire curiosity and confidence.

Address Bias

The leaky pipeline challenges us to question and redefine traditional norms of biases and practices that perpetuate inequality and hinder progress. Offer training and workshops on implicit bias awareness for educators, employers, and colleagues to reduce unconscious biases. Promote diverse and inclusive classroom and workplace environments that challenge stereotypes.

Mentorship and Role Models:Robust  mentorship  programs that pair experienced women in STEM with early-career professionals to provide guidance, support, and career advice should be established Successful women in STEM as role models should be celebrated and honored in order  to inspire and motivate  younger folks

Networking and Collaboration:

Encourage networking opportunities for women in STEM through conferences, seminars, and professional organizations should be encouraged as well as Fostering collaboration and interdisciplinary research to create a sense of community and support.

Flexible Work Arrangements:

Implement flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options and flexible hours, to help women balance their careers and family responsibilities.

Childcare support

Establishing on-site child facilities within research instructions or academic settings to make convenient for women to balance work and care-giving responsibilities ,promoting remote work options  enabling researches to fulfill  their responsibilities  from home when needed especially during critical phases of childcare  are highly crucial. Offer financial support  or childcare subsidies to support working parents.

Supportive/Conducive Workplace

Advocate for family-friendly policies, including extended parental leave, lactation rooms, and support for caregivers. Develop anti-harassment policies and procedures and ensure that they are enforced consistently.

Diverse Hiring Practices:

Promote diverse hiring practices that involve diverse panels during interviews and emphasize skills and qualifications over gender or other demographic factors. Establish clear and transparent promotion and advancement criteria.

Professional Development Opportunities:

Provide access to training, leadership development programs, and funding opportunities for women in STEM. Encourage continuous learning and skill development to advance careers.

Educational Outreach:

 Schools and communities should be engaged in outreach activities to raise awareness about STEM careers and opportunities for women. Partner with educational institutions to create pathways for women in STEM education.

In conclusion

Bridging the leaky pipeline in STEM fields should be a proactive effort that requires commitment at all levels of society, from individuals and educational institutions to employers and policymakers. By implementing these strategies, we can work toward a more equitable and inclusive STEM community where the talents and contributions of women are fully recognized and supported.

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