Gender inequalities in tech and science

Math and computer science major starts new club to advocate for women in technical and scientific fields

Emily Jolly

emjolly@ursinus.edu

 

This semester the Women in Tech and Science (WiTS) have joined the wide array of clubs at Ursinus.  Spearheaded by sophomore math and computer science major Serena Schaefer, the club will work to empower women and other minorities in the fields of technology and science, within both the Ursinus community and in the surrounding area.

Working alongside Schaefer are sophomore Elizabeth DeWitt as vice president, junior Lauren Turet as secretary, and sophomore Yuqing Liu as publicity chair. Together, Schaefer said they decided to start the program in order to “support women and other minorities who are underrepresented in certain majors here, particularly physics and computer science.”

Regarding female students at Ursinus, Schaefer noted that “There are many girls that might have wanted to [study] science, but chose not to because of reasons that include lack of support and common stereotypes. That is a lot of unused potential and missed opportunities, both for the women and their communities.”

The club’s members see this as an issue not only on campus, but in many communities around the world. In order to combat this, they plan on reaching out to girls in the surrounding area.

As Turet stated, “Our main mission is to not only promote awareness for some of the gender stereotypes that exist within the STEM field, but to also inspire a younger population – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, etc. – to pursue various clubs, degrees, and careers based on an intrinsic passion rather than what society has told them [to do].”

WiTS held their first meeting last week. Many math and computer science professors were in attendance, most of whom were women. While the club is still only in its beginning stages, they are generating many ideas.

Specifically Schaefer said she would like to “look into the strength of the computer science, physics, math, and engineering programs at local schools. I’d like to talk to teachers there and make them aware of stereotypes and possible biases they may not know they are showing.”

She also hopes to “bring in women scientists who can talk about their experiences with the issue,” and has been in contact with Dr. April Edwards, Professor Lisa A. Grossbauer, and her adviser Professor Ann Marie V. Schilling—all of whom are faculty in the Math and Computer Science departments—about bringing in a panel of speakers.

According to Turet, some other activities they plan to coordinate include “mentor/mentee programs, tutoring session for students on and off campus, study sessions, conferences, movie screenings at middle schools, and discussions with professors and students regarding the issue of stereotypes in STEM.”

“We also hope to plan events such as a 3D Printing Night for which we would join forces with the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) on campus, the Association for Computing Machinery, Society of Physics Students, or other organizations,” Turet added.

Furthermore, Turet said that the club is devising an “outreach to alumni [and] other connections [that] would be interested in conducting demonstrations in elementary and/or middle schools in the region.” [GN1]

All of these events help to further the purpose of the club, which is, as Professor Schilling stated, “to support the women currently studying in the tech and science field as well as encourage younger girls in the fields of mathematics, physics, computing, biology, and other sciences and technology.”

Such efforts will aim to connect the past, present, and future women in the field of tech and science in Ursinus and beyond.

Schaefer looks forward to the club’s future. “There are so many things we can do. We’ll have open discussions about the disparity,” she said.

Mentioning a personal motivation for starting the club Schaeffer added, “My mother, a physics professor, was a big inspiration for me; not all girls grow up knowing someone like that.”

By developing and nurturing connections, holding programs, and working hard, the Women in Tech and Science plan to inspire the current and future generations of women to make their mark within the field.