I have a brother, and as we grew up, I never got any sort of impression that we were anything other than completely equal in our parents’ eyes. It wasn’t until I was older and began to show an interest in the sciences that my mother sat me down and explained that STEM fields used to be an incredibly difficult place for women to succeed in. I was appalled at the idea that women were treated poorly because they were women and that many people felt that they didn’t belong in those fields. Hearing stories of what female engineers went through was my introduction into the world of discrimination in STEM fields. As I continued with my education in a STEM field, I became increasingly wary of how I would be treated by others. Would they consider me to be intelligent? Or would I just be intelligent….for a woman? Would I be deemed incompetent because I couldn’t replicate a lab technique on the first try? Would I be forced to work twice as hard to prove that I was worthy of being allowed to do undergraduate research? While blatant discrimination was rare, the fact that I, as well as so many others, have to experience thoughts like that, or actual discrimination, is one of the many reasons that I joined WISE.
If I were to be elected to the executive board of WISE, I would like to focus on helping people currently involved in STEM fields and getting the group involved in more outreach. One problem that women and minorities and STEM fields seem to face is having an example to follow when it comes time to apply for jobs, go on interviews, or even decide what career possibilities interests them. Female and minority faculty members or people with positions in industry may be few and far between or not easily contacted. I propose that WISE hold events such as resume/CV editing workshops, mock interviews, and hosting outside speakers who are willing to discuss how they got involved in the STEM career that they did. It would be beneficial for women and minorities to discuss specific career paths with people who have already gone through the process. Additionally, it may be beneficial to be made aware of some of the issues that can come with the various job options that are available to people in STEM fields and how best to combat them. By increasing the presence of women and minorities in STEM-related jobs, hopefully, some of the issues that we face can be reduced.
My outreach plan is two-fold. One of the ways we can work to end discrimination for women and minorities in STEM fields is to get young children, both girls and boys, involved and interested in the sciences. By increasing exposure to the sciences, we can introduce children to a world that they may not have access to otherwise. Additionally, by targeting mixed groups, we can help future scientists become familiar with collaborating with diverse groups. Early exposure may increase tolerance, which would hopefully benefit all of the groups that are underrepresented in the fields.
In addition to increasing outreach with children, I believe that we need to become more involved with outreach events that target scientists who are currently active in STEM fields. Holding seminars and workshops that increase awareness of the issues that minorities in STEM face may help bring these topics to the forefront of the minds of people who haven’t experienced any sort of discrimination. If people aren’t actively aware of the issues that are out there, it’s difficult for them to change any behavior that may be causing problems. Working with STEM departments on campus to increase awareness of the issues that still plague the fields and to address strategies that can be used to help departments move forward would be ideal tasks for the group to get involved with.
By increasing outreach with children, we can help future generations of scientists learn to interact with others from all backgrounds. By increasing outreach with current scientists, we can help transition STEM fields into a more tolerant environment. Increasing the outreach that WISE is involved in will not only benefit the group by improving the environment that we work in and preparing the next generation of scientists, but, hopefully, increasing the amount of outreach that we engage in will increase our presence on campus. Increasing our presence and garnering interest for the group will result in new members and new possibilities for WISE.