Support for Women in STEM

Published: Tues., September 18

Although women earn a majority of postsecondary degrees in the United States, they remain underrepresented in certain fields of study. This is especially pronounced in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines, in which women earned only 33% of all graduate degrees conferred in 2015 (NCES, 2016). While young women graduate from high school with the skills needed to succeed in these fields, many choose not to pursue degrees in STEM majors for a variety of reasons, several of which are related to gender bias and stereotypes (AAUW, 2010). The historical lack of women in these fields contributes to departmental cultures that may make women feel excluded, inadequate, or marginalized.

A number of resources exist at both the institutional and national level to provide professional, financial, and emotional support to help women succeed in STEM fields.

Society of Women Engineers

UNL’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) “aims to stimulate women to achieve full potential in careers as engineers and leaders, to expand the image of the engineering profession as a positive force in improving the quality of life, and to demonstrate the value of diversity”. The group hosts events throughout the year to provide networking and professional development opportunities and social support for undergraduate and graduate women in engineering fields. View their Facebook for more information about upcoming activities and events.

Association for Women in Science

The University is an Institutional Member of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), which works to promote a campus culture that will increase the participation of women in STEM and enhance their impact within the academic and scientific community. As part of UNL’s Institutional Membership, students can get a free yearly membership to AWIS. Membership benefits include career and personal development resources, networking opportunities, and information on trends, opportunities, and events to support your professional development.

Association for Women in Mathematics

The Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) Student Chapter at UNL offers a community for women in the field to discuss academic and personal issues and to promote gender equity in mathematics. As a Student Chapter benefit, you can sign up for a complimentary AWM membership, which will give you access to the AWM listserv announcements and the AWM newsletter.

Counseling and Psychological Services

UNL’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides both individual and group counseling for students who may be experiencing mental, psychological, or emotional issues. A number of therapy groups, including the Surviving and Thriving in Grad School and Graduate Women’s USO groups, can help you work through thoughts, feelings, and issues that you may experience as a woman in a STEM discipline, as well as suggest solutions for coping with stressors and difficulties.

Graduate Women in Science

Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) is a global organization that seeks to advance the participation and recognition of women in scientific fields. GWIS supports women in science by providing community and mentorship, professional development and networking opportunities, and fellowships for research-based study.

MentorNet

MentorNet’s virtual mentorships pair students with STEM professionals to help promote student success and empower individuals to persist in their fields. Student participants will answer a short questionnaire, after which they’ll be provided with a list of potential mentors. As part of the four-month program, you will engage in weekly guided discussions with your mentor regarding topics related to your educational level and personal and professional interests.

Final Advice for Supporting Women in STEM

Whether or not you identify as a women, you can still provide support to female graduate students in STEM disciplines. Serve as a mentor or ally. Listen to their challenges and concerns and help the find solutions. For individuals who may feel marginalized in their field, support is essential for them to be successful and to help encourage other underrepresented individuals into the field. The kind of support they may want or need may vary. Perhaps they need help navigating family obligations or similar situations. Maybe their contributions are overlooked in the field or department or they are discriminated against. Or maybe they may feel they that they are overused in efforts to help support diversity. Regardless of what the concern may be, listen first and then seek to support them in whatever way may be best.

References

American Association of University Women [AAUW]. 2010. Why so few? Women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Retrieved from https://www.aauw.org/research/why-so-few/.

National Center for Education Statistics [NCES]. (2016). Number and percentage distribution of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees/certificates conferred by postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity, level of degree/certificate, and sex of student: 2008-09 through 2014-15. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d16/tables/dt16_318.45.asp.