There are few disciplines that change as quickly as science. New research is being conducted and published every day, and it only takes one discovery to turn years of study upside down. Despite being such a dynamic field, science has managed to maintain a striking trend – the under-representation of women.
According to the U.S. Census, in 1970, women made up just 8% of science, technology, engineering, and math – or STEM – careers in the United States. % of STEM jobs available, showing progress but also a predominant disparity.
For women of color, representation is sorely lacking. In 2017, black women made up just 2% of the STEM workforce, according to the National Science Foundation. Asian women made up 5% and Hispanic women also made up 2% of STEM workers.
Lack of access to STEM careers also means lack of access to some of the highest paying jobs available. Out of a list of 20 occupations with the highest median salaries from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17 were in STEM fields, including medicine, engineering, and computer science.
As a computer science major, UW junior Carla Rose said she felt these disparities in her classes.
“Looking around my classroom, I’m the only person of color, the only black woman,” Rose said. “I feel like there is definitely a lack of support for students like me and I think it has become very dissuasive.
While at UW, Rose worked to create spaces and community for computer science students of color. During the pandemic, Rose set up the Multicultural Computer Study Table, which offers hours of tutoring and welcoming.
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Rose also brought ColorStack, a national organization with the goal of providing a community for computer science students of color, to UW.
“The [computer science] ministry was really supportive of trying to create an organization for this community. What I did was look at different national organizations that already had the same mission and the same community, ”said Rose. “I was able to connect with the national ColorStack organization and now this year we are in a position to start everything to become a registered student organization. “
Rose said feelings of inferiority have been a challenge throughout her academic career, but creating her own spaces of community and support as well as working with faculty and faculty to address the lack of support for students at color helped her navigate.
In an emailed statement to the Badger Herald, UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone said the computer science department offers programs such as the Wisconsin Emerging Scholars-CS, which provides support to historically marginalized students. and those new to programming.
In addition, the Wisconsin Science and Computing Emerging Research Stars is a new mentorship program launched by CS faculty members to foster research participation among undergraduates, with a particular focus on students from undergraduate students. historically under-represented groups, according to McGlone.
“We value the work of students who are engaged in creating spaces where they can build community, and we strive to support those efforts by advising support and financial resources,” McGlone said.
Through his research in paleontology, Shailaja Singh, a junior and major in genetics, worked in a field dominated by white men.
“Fields like paleontology, anthropology and archeology have their history tied to colonialism and white supremacy. And you can’t really part with this story, it’s important to recognize that, ”Singh said.
Singh is currently working in a geology lab preparing fossils for further study and has been fascinated by paleontology since she first purchased a book on dinosaurs as a child.
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“I talked about studying the pliosaur’s fin, and their fin bones look so much like human fingers. It just shows that we are all connected,” says Singh. “Through paleontology, we can learn a lot about it. our climate, the origin of our species and life in general. ”
Despite a love for the pitch, Singh noted the lack of women in attendance. For example, for on-site searches, most universities do not have a policy on sexual harassment. Singh said that so few women participate in these trips that institutions do not feel the need to manage possible risks.
Although she worked on three different research projects, Singh only had one female IP, a fact she said she was very aware of. Discussions with this PI included recollections of sexual harassment and rude remarks that were the norm for female scientists. At least times have changed enough that in theory an institution is doing something about these behaviors today, Singh said.
In areas that lack representation for women and especially women of color, Rose and Singh are both heavily involved in impressive work.
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In addition to her advocacy and creating spaces for students of color, Rose has also worked in the simulation-based engineering lab, interned at Google and is ready to embark on a career in engineering. software. Despite this, she considers her greatest achievement to be consolidating what she wants to do for the rest of her life.
Along with her extensive research experience in the fields of geology, anthropology and virology, Singh is involved in a stem cell research student organization and has undertaken several writing projects, including as a Associate Director of the Wisconsin Union Directorate (WUD) Publications Committee. When it comes to taking on an area with very little representation, Singh sees it only as a motivation to succeed.
“You always ask yourself, ‘Do they really see me as their equal? But then another part of me thinks “even if they don’t, I’ll just be better than them out of spite,” Singh said.