By Taylor Moore | email@example.com
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, better known as STEM, is one of the world’s biggest fields to study.
Here at Radford University, there is a decline in students enrolling in the Artis College of Science and Technology across both genders.
The concerning thing is that women have been the minority in the STEM program over the past five years, but the gap is still closing as both groups’ enrollment decline.
[epq-quote align=”align-left”]After talking to some women here at Radford who are a part of the STEM program, it opened my eyes to some of the world’s misconceptions.[/epq-quote]
After talking to some women here at Radford who are a part of the STEM program, it opened my eyes to some of the world’s misconceptions.
I asked if there were ever any situations where they felt it was going to be extremely difficult going into the STEM field, and the responses were very average, which is reassuring when it comes to the way society looks at women in STEM.
Katherine Bindbeutel is a Mathematics major with concentrations in Applied Mathematics and Statistics and will be graduating this spring.
Bindbeutel first spoke of how challenging the workload is when you first start in your field of study.
[epq-quote align=”align-right”]Bindbeutel first spoke of how challenging the workload is when you first start in your field of study.[/epq-quote]
Bindbeutel also said, “I have also been criticized quite a bit for choosing to study math. It could be because it’s a tough subject that people have negative associations with, which is understandable,
“However, if you are in a STEM degree program, remember why you chose to study that and be proud of it!”
Bindbeutel also has a job set up for when she graduates this spring. This is just one example of a persevering woman in the STEM field, even through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another woman, Dr. Kristina Stefaniak, spoke on the matter. Dr. Stefaniak is a professor here at Radford University and teaches analytical and instrumental chemistry along with specialized courses in environmental and forensic chemistry.
In the interview with Dr. Stefaniak, she described what usually happens with young people trying to pursue a career.
[epq-quote align=”align-left”]In the interview with Dr. Stefaniak, she described what usually happens with young people trying to pursue a career.[/epq-quote]
Dr. Stefaniak said, “I can’t say there was one situation where I thought I couldn’t be a successful scientist. I think this is a misrepresentation of the pushback women face in STEM. I have faced countless microaggressions,
“From an undergraduate physics professor telling me I earned my grade ‘because you are a woman,’ to a graduate colleague commenting on my outfit choice as a response to my question about using a Dean-Stark trap for drying PEG, to mentors and advisors telling me when to start a family,
“These countless comments are what can convince women they are not worthy of the position they’re in; it’s the death of a career due to a thousand paper cuts.”
Another student I interviewed was Brooke Baumgarten, a Chemistry major graduating in the spring of 2022.
In regard to having more women in this field, Baumgarten said, “They should totally do it this. It’s really rewarding when you do something right, and there really is a lack of women in this field.”
I want to close out this article with words of encouragement from a few of the women I interviewed.
Bindbeutel’s advice to women considering STEM is, “to just go for it! I changed my major from Elementary Education to Math about a month into my first year at Radford, and I haven’t looked back,
“There are so many career options with a STEM degree, from corporate work to teaching to even starting a business or nonprofit,
“Also, remember to make the most of your time in and out of classes by doing research and working with your peers and professors,
“Undergraduate research was a fun and creative experience for me, and it has opened so many doors for me.”
Dr. Stefaniak has advice for everyone.
“It is to know you are worthy of anything you choose to do. Your accomplishments, such as being a student at Radford University, the grade you got on the assignment or working a job while being a full-time student, are truly accomplishments,
“Be proud of what you have done and have confidence that your future will continue to be full of accomplishments,” Dr. Stefaniak stated.