Women in STEM

Female students at UHS participate in STEM clubs in face of underrepresentation in the STEM field.

Karina Pandurangadu, Staff Writer

In both the fields of leadership and the sciences, women are underrepresented. Only 27% of STEM workers in the US are women (Gov Census). Even beyond that, only 41 of the Fortune 500 CEOs this year are women, a measly 8% (Fortune). Overall, women comprise only 19.2% of board positions in STEM-related industries and just 3% of STEM industry CEOs. These statistics describe the American working class, but similar themes can be seen in UHS’ very own body of club leadership. Out of around two dozen STEM-related clubs, academic and community service focused, less than half have female presidents.

Within that group is junior Aniyah Shen, co-president of Science Club. Shen’s primary responsibility is overseeing and managing all Science Club activities. This is Shen’s second year in this position and with her experience, she believes progress has been made.

“I think being a girl and being co-president of the largest STEM club on campus has definitely given me the advantage of perspective and awareness,” Shen said. “I also think that just having a girl in this position sends an important message to the girls on campus who are interested in STEM, even if they aren’t directly involved in Science Club.”

Science Club is roughly split in half between girls and boys within their competing teams, but Shen thinks more can be done to increase female participation.

“There can definitely be more targeted outreach on the part of more male-dominated STEM clubs on campus, though part of this might just be the topics and interests,” Shen said. “Increasing girls’ participation and membership in these clubs is the first step to allowing more women into leadership positions.”

In another quintessential STEM club, senior Kristine Lu is Contest Commissioner for Math Club. She is mainly responsible for coordinating competitions and events for Math Club members. Unlike Science Club though, Math Club is highly concentrated with boys, with Lu being the only female board member.

“I wish there were more girls on board and in the club […] but, everyone is very kind, Math Club’s community is very accepting of everyone, and there is definitely a growing number of girls that are coming to meetings and events, which I’m really happy about,” Lu said.

Lu hopes that her position as a girl on board in a male-dominated club will make prospective club members more comfortable and more likely to attend the club’s meetings and competitions. She describes a domino effect of more girls getting involved and creating a more welcoming environment for all.

“I think what’s most important is that all girls who are interested in STEM should be able to go to club meetings without feeling intimidated or out of place,” Lu said. “I also think the girls in STEM clubs naturally encourage and inspire each other to be more confident and possibly thrive towards a leadership position, so just making sure the STEM club is accessible to everyone and especially girls will allow more women to hold leadership positions.”

Community service clubs with STEM orientations also raise a voice in female leadership. A key example of this is Stempowerher Club president, junior Elizabeth Matthews.

Matthews has had her fair share of encounters with those who challenge female leadership in STEM. She jokes that it is to the point that she has statistics memorized.

“At our library events, where we communicate with and teach young girls, I can understand what the elementary schoolers feel like when they tell me instances when their friends have said ‘you can’t like science and math,’ and that it is a ‘boy job,’” Matthews said. “I know that we must reinforce this child with the belief that they are meant for a STEM classroom.”

Within the general scope of reform Matthews hopes to see, she also has visions for changes within UHS.

“I think that the inclusion of women should be more advertised and focused on,” Matthews said. “Equal representation is key and after you have that, I think the results will follow.”