As a part of our #IAMAWomanInSTEM learning and service initiative, the ambassadors created service projects to help in encouraging more women to engage in the STEM. My group created a “Humans of New York” style Facebook page featuring photos and stories of different UK women in STEM fields. Each group member collaborated and interviewed their own mentor, friends, professors, or other professionals in the field. While this doesn’t seem to be a “service project” at first glance, the work we did was surely thought through, impactful, and educational.
We started at the drawing board. On the second day of class, my group of 5 women at UK, all majoring in STEM topics, first discussed the potential of our project. Our teacher, Brittany, let us know that our service area was media. As millennials, this made us very excited. The group bounced back ideas on each other. From possibilities of creating a Twitter account, to making a YouTube series, we soon found out that the #IAmAWomanInSTEM initiative already had these. In order to incorporate media into our service project, we decided that we had to be more specific with our goal. Instead of operating an ongoing social media page, we decided to have a 3 week series of pictures and stories about women in STEM and call it “Women of STEM UK” (Instead of “People of New York”).Coming up with the initial idea was easy, but we had to find a way to accomplish it.
With the rigor of science majors, we were all busy students so we had to complete this project in a feasible way. We budgeted out how many interviews each ambassador was to perform and when they should perform it by. Each ambassador was in charge of interviewing three women in STEM. These interviews were tied to deadlines which would be the determining factor of what gets featured on the Facebook page. We would each submit our interview to an online Canvas group and begin to discuss which interview best fit the needs of our project and how we could improve upon it. The interviews were selected and then paired with a photo of the woman who was interviewed. We then uploaded the interview to Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter. Through each of these sites, we were able to share the links with our friends, family, and others with the easy widgets of social media. Overall, the project was a success and my group was very satisfied with the result. We had over 100 “likes” on the series and many “shares”. This was quite touching because it displayed how people understand the gender barriers that face women in the STEM field and wanted to help.
As posted earlier on this blog, women in the STEM field (and many other fields) are often held back. Throughout my participation of the #IAmAWomanInSTEM initiative, I learned that the barriers that women must face are all very much prevalent and HAVE NAMES. This was interesting to me, simply because women face so many gender biases in the workplace we had to make names for them. The following is a list of the gender biases and a description of them:
1) Prove it again- Women have to prove themselves over and over again to show their male counterparts that they belong where they are. Their successes are discredited and they have to continually prove themselves.
2) The tightrope- Women have to act masculine to be taken seriously, but are expected to be feminine, so they walk a tightrope of not being too much of either one.
3) Maternal wall- When a women wants to have a child, their competence is questioned and there are fewer opportunities. People think that once a scientist has a child, their career is over.
4) Tug of war- Women have to compete against one another for the “woman spot.” Older generations of women also feel as though they can treat women poorly because they were treated that way throughout their education and career.
5) Isolation- Some women avoid socializing with colleagues so they can be taken seriously. Others try and hide their personal lives. Mainly women feel isolated in the field especially black and Latina women.
These gender biases held the theme to our project. We asked the women interviewed to address these gender biases and how/if they affected them. The result of this, again, was shocking. Almost every woman interviewed talked about how they had personally experienced several of these biases. These were women performing research and teaching classes of 400+ students–women that have clearly demonstrated knowledge and dedication to the fields of science and math. By sharing their stories, it became clear to me that gender biases are real– especially in the STEM fields.
When one thinks about science, technology, engineering, and math–one often associates it with forward thinking and acceptance. Do to the nature of science, we are headed in the forward direction. Everyday there is a significant new discovery or piece of technology. However, it is clear that this field is still shaky when it comes to gender inclusion. From the beginning of elementary school, boys and girls are taught that a “mad scientist” is an old man with crazy hair. They are also taught that men are the architects, doctors, and computer engineers of the world. These ideals are carved into our brains from the beginning and we have all learned to accept them as reality. Even I, as a woman pushing for women’s equality in STEM, still picture a scientist or a doctor as a man–simply because that’s all I was taught growing up. This way of thinking is poisonous. Women are often too discouraged to enter the science field—and from many studies that we learned about in this service learning class–this discouragement stems from a lack of support. By implementing programs such as the #IAmAWomanInSTEM, we are able to discuss and spread awareness about these gender biases–hopefully making people more comfortable with the idea of a woman programmer, scientist, or doctor.
When you take a step back, the STEM field is only one area where women are marginalized. Gender biases are very prevalent in politics, business, and even art. Women often have a much higher standard to which they must meet to overcome these biases. Many people don’t want to address these issues because they don’t think they exist or they simply don’t want change. However, after partaking in this class, I have learned that these biases do exist and proving to people that they do is an important factor in making a change. This service learning class was very beneficial to me as a woman in STEM. While I personally feel like I have been given nothing but encouragement by my peers and family to pursue this career, it is definitely beneficial to know what other women might be facing and what may happen down the road. Knowing a barrier can help you overcome it and this project definitely informed me.
I loved meeting all of the women involved with #IAmAWomanInSTEM, from professors to students, these exceptional women are all truly inspiring. By pushing for equality in the STEM fields, a broader scope of subjects can be addressed and different point of views can be incorporated in advancing our understanding of the world. It’s also important, however, to address that biases don’t only happen to women. The world is full of biases towards minority groups, religions, and even certain ways of life. By dedicating time to understand one, it it easier to understand the others. I think everyone should be knowledgeable of these biases–simply because it will help to create a more fulfilling life for everyone.