In The Spotlight, News

Lack of Women In STEM

Women make up 47 percent of the total workforce, according to the National Science Foundation. However, the statistics of women working in STEM career fields pales in comparison.

Through research in 2011, the NSF discovered that less than 25 percent of women hold STEM-related jobs in America. About one in five women obtains a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering.

Keith Stansbury stands in front of a whiteboard
Keith Stansbury teaches a drafting class, one of many STEM areas at Clark with predominantly male students.

Two science transfer degree options are offered at Clark. AST-1 is available to students majoring in earth science, chemistry, biology or geology. According to Planning and Effectiveness, 54 percent of those enrolled in the program are women. Only 14 percent of female students are in the AST-2 program, which focuses on engineering, computer science, physics or atmospheric science.

Erin Harwood, STEM coordinator
Erin Harwood, STEM coordinator

A lack of support or minimal resources could play a factor in such contrasting numbers. Clark’s STEM Coordinator Erin Harwood said that having the opportunity to get involved in STEM youth programs is very beneficial.

How specific students are taught can also contribute to their success, Harwood said.

“The boys like the problem-solving aspect and the logic,” Harwood said. “It’s not that girls don’t, but you have to have that empathy component so that they feel like they’re making a difference in some shape or form.”

Harwood encourages women and girls to persevere. “It’s important for them to feel they’re not alone in this.”

In an attempt to promote awareness, career development and encourage women in STEM, the United Nations declared Feb. 11 as International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Peter Williams, Dean of STEM
Peter Williams, Dean of STEM

“The challenge that exists is there really is a prevalent cultural message that women cannot do well in STEM fields,” said Dean of STEM Peter Williams.

He said that, as educators, it is important to convey to young women that this message is false, and that they can indeed be successful in STEM.

By hosting activities such as the Elementary Science Olympiad, MESA Day and Engineering Week, Clark strives to provide local youth with a fun way to learn about math and science.

Additionally, programs like N.E.R.D. Girls allow Clark students to join together and reach out to the community.

Akari Baba, treasurer of N.E.R.D. Girls, enjoys seeing young girls pursue STEM career fields because it inspires her to work towards her dream. Baba’s passion for design and love of math sparked her interest in engineering.

“It doesn’t intimidate me to be surrounded by boys in this field,” Baba said. “When you’re one of the few females in your class, it makes you feel stronger and more empowered.”

Students are welcome to join N.E.R.D. Girls as they pursue their interests in STEM. They meet on Tuesdays from 2-3 p.m. in APH 206, and study sessions are Mondays and Fridays from 2-4 p.m. at the same location.

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