Women’s History Month: Lady Macbeth and Women in STEM


The month of March celebrates Women’s History! There are numerous female figures who are known for their actions of progressiveness and achievement! One literary character who shows ambition and assertiveness for a goal-mindset is Lady Macbeth from the play Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is also known for defying gender restrictions in her societal time period. The meaning of her character in this play correlates to one of the meanings of this month’s values, the societal issues that women face, especially integrated gender roles. In STEM, those restrictions do come into play when it comes to women in a heavily male dominated field. Lady Macbeth’s character compares how women in STEM experience and work in the field and how they combat integrated societal gender norms. 

The photo above depicts a display in celebration of Women’s History Month, specfically notable women of color and their roles in the STEM field throughout history.

In Westside High School, calculus instructor, Mrs. Doxtater, commented about Lady Macbeth and how that character’s mindset and assertive attitude relates to her experience and mindset in being a woman in STEM. One question asked towards Mrs. Doxtater was: Talking about a female fictional literature character written by Shakespeare named “Lady Macbeth” in the play Macbeth her characteristics are very ambition-driven and definitely focused on her end goal, even defying all of the societal restrictions on women she was put upon during that time period. Because of this, Lady Macbeth’s character was seen as an inspiration on defying gender norms to strive for her desired success. How in this case does Lady Macbeth’s character relate to your journey in STEM as a woman?

Her response to this question: “Yeah, it is interesting how in that time period and really even today, women who are strong, have goals, and are assertive, are very often misdiagnosed as what kind of people they are. I have a lot of people that are terrified of me, but they don’t get to know me. Yes, I have standards but that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand their humanity or their emotional state on any given day. Yes, we have a goal of what needs to be accomplished and sometimes you have to put emotions aside to get things accomplished. As an adult, I have had many times to acknowledge that is what you have to do, which can stink but you still have to power through even if you don’t feel like it.

So point being, sometimes I get mislabeled or misunderstood because of my ability to set aside my emotional feelings about something and you have to get the job done. And that happens a lot in calculus. How do I feel about that? I feel like that’s unfortunate for people seeing that side without seeing this other side that is good. It’s not bad that you have a goal and want to attain that.

I think people naturally see a woman with strong goals and direction, and rarely do they look at that and praise: ‘wow, she’s really got plans.’” 

Us: They really only think about the negative?

Mrs. Doxtater replies: “They do. I think so. And it’s sad. Because if they knew my heart, they would know that I wasn’t like that.”

From this response, Mrs. Doxtater discussed many occurrences relating to her experiences and relating it to Lady Macbeth’s ambition-like behavior. The next question though asks more in depth into what Mrs. Doxtater thinks about the changes in women’s roles. We asked: As a woman in STEM, have you noticed a change in women’s roles in STEM fields throughout your career? Would you say there’s a greater sense of gender equality in the workspace? 

Mrs. Doxtater replies: “I think there is. Absolutely. You know there is a big change in that over the years. I mean when I started college, I was in civil engineering and there were very few women at that time in the field. And I, in fact, left it (laughter) as I have said in class. It wasn’t my thing. This wasn’t the type of people I wanted to be around. And now I’m here teaching those types of people because I love them and they’re so interesting. I was too immature at the time to recognize the depth and diversity of the people I was in classes with to appreciate it. And now I’m on the other side where I’m like ‘y’all, these people are so cool and have so much to offer!’ And I see that beauty. I love what I’m teaching. I love the diversity of everything in the groups of students that I have every year. There’s diversity in every area and I love that. And when I started in college, I didn’t understand that and didn’t come from that background. 

And I have some former students that are math and science teachers today! And a lot of them are girls who have been inspired in my class and have moved on and they’re pursuing STEM! I think it’s neat for people to appreciate the diversity of thought, mind, and spirit that are in STEM programs. And I’ve hired, as a department chair, some of my former students, both female and male, in other schools as well. In fact, I can count at least ten of my former students who have gone to becoming math and science teachers!

So I think that women in the field can influence a lot of other people. I can see that I have inspired a lot of my students and I’m glad in being that root for them.”

To conclude this interview, we asked one last general question in incorporating that Lady Macbeth mindset or habit to obtain success in the STEM field. We asked: As a woman in STEM, do you agree with women needing to have a similar mindset as Lady Macbeth to achieve with this society in STEM? And why?

Mrs. Doxtater concluded with, “Sometimes…does the Lady Macbeth character have to come out? Sometimes you have to come out. And people don’t like that. It’s not proper for women to act like that. Sometimes you just have to say, you know what? This isn’t right. And I’m gonna tell you, that it’s not.”

The positions of women in the field of STEM have certainly improved over the course of time, however, there remains a prominence of gender discrimination in these workspaces. By acknowledging and celebrating the achievements, courage, and contributions of women of past generations, we can embrace the present and shape the future for creating a more gender equal society.