The Fermi Paradox in STEM—Where Are the Women Leaders?


This commentary summarizes insights and discussions about the status of women leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and medicine). While many academic institutions now train close to 50 % female students in STEM disciplines, there is a major underrepresentation of qualified women in leadership roles. Women are admitted to the basements of STEM institutions, but only few make it to the top floor. We see male superstars receiving well-deserved recognitions and advancements. Unfortunately, their female counterparts are often held back or cut down by both male and female colleagues. Increasing reports of acts of discrimination reported by women in STEM fields are a symptom. Unilateral hierarchy is the root cause. Just increasing the quote/proportion of women and underrepresented minorities at an institution is therefore not enough to address the underlying problem. At Stanford Radiology, we started a major initiative to increase the representation of qualified women and other underrepresented minorities in our leadership teams in order to ensure that every member of the Department has an advocate at the leadership table, when decisions are being made. Diverse leadership teams are vital to creating a culture of respect and inclusion for everyone.

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Correspondence to Heike E. Daldrup-Link.

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Daldrup-Link, H.E. The Fermi Paradox in STEM—Where Are the Women Leaders?. Mol Imaging Biol 19, 807–809 (2017).

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Key words

  • Diversity
  • Women in STEM
  • Equality
  • Leadership
  • WIMIN (Women in Molecular Imaging Network)