Creating Opportunity for Women in STEM

On Friday, April 22, a group of 117 Girl Scouts flooded the Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center to take part in Wittenberg’s Science Night. The scouts were divided into multiple groups that walked throughout the science center for three hours, making stops at the physics, chemistry, biology and computer science departments for activities relating to each field of study.
The event was co-sponsored by Wittenberg’s Chemistry Club and Kappa Delta sorority in order to generate more interest within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Sophia Melnyk, the current president of Chemistry Club, said, “Our goal was to restore an event that we had heard about a number of years ago that focused on building a relationship between professors at Wittenberg and the Girl Scouts through science. Rather than just having an interest in science ourselves through our participation in Chemistry Club, we wanted a chance to connect with others and spark interest in science.”

A study done at the University of Texas at Austin has drawn conclusions that women don’t avoid STEM majors and professions because of their lack of math and science skills. Rather, they choose different fields in spite of their ability because of the traditional role that masculinity currently plays within these professions. Therefore, the current cultural environment in the United States discourages women from pursuing a career in STEM, because of the stigma that men are better at science than women. However, according to statistics derived by shriverreport.org, women accounted for 46 percent of all Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus test-takers in 2013, contributed 47 percent of the winning projects in the Google Science Fair and already make up nearly 60 percent of degree recipients in biology (according to the National Center for Education Statistics). These statistics show that women not only make up at least half of the leading science minds in the United States, they even receive more college degrees in certain STEM fields than men. This is very encouraging, and in order to continue to generate a higher transition rate from a college degree to a STEM profession for women, we need to keep attacking the traditional role masculinity plays in the work force.
As a current senior finishing up his college degree in computer science, I was shocked to only see two women enrolled for a degree in computer science during my time at Wittenberg. After participating in Girl Scout Science Night, I have a better understanding of why the gender ratio is so unbalanced, and have learned that the culture of STEM professions in the United States affects women.

Therefore, it is important that we keep holding events such as the Girl Scout Science Night so that we can get the younger generations of women more involved with science. Through the continual involvement of younger generations, we can begin to normalize women into STEM fields of study and professions. Like the Chemistry Club and Kappa Delta sorority, universities and companies nation-wide need to recognize the cultural struggle in STEM and be willing to help deconstruct the “boys club” mentality.

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