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Monday, November 24, 2014

Men are from STEM, women are from humanities: Breaking down gender barriers in academia

"Encouraging young women to see themselves as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals could increase enrollment numbers at colleges." continues UNLV The Rebel Yell.


Betzabe Sanchez, engineering major, recalls walking into her first class at UNLV.

“When I walked in there were only three other girls in that class,” Sanchez said. “The professor asked me if I belonged in the class. I said yes, this is my class. He said ‘this is an engineering class.’ I said ‘I know.’”

Sanchez said she was shocked at the reaction of the professor and the other students in the class although she realizes that she doesn’t fit the stereotypical mold of an engineer.

Sanchez didn’t dream of being an engineer until her senior year of high school. She had her mind set to be a psychologist until her physics teacher and mentor planned a trip to the Hoover Dam and she talked to professional water resource engineers.

“I fell in love with what they were doing,” Sanchez said. “It’s not until I experienced that that I thought I could be an engineer.”

According to the American Association of University Women, an organization that supports women in the STEM field, 25 percent of women make up the computing workforce and 14 percent are involved in engineering. The association also states that African-American, Hispanic and Native-American women are the most underrepresented.

AAUW put together a report, “Why So Few Women In Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics,” compiling research from 1960 to 2009.

The report looked at studies that tested girls’ achievements and interest in math and sciences compared to their learning environments and the social beliefs surrounding them.Citing 2009 National Science Foundation data, the report states that men outnumber women 3 to 1 in high-level SAT math performance, and there are 29 men for every 15 women who declare STEM majors as a freshman.

The formal statistics for the College of Engineering weren’t available as of press time.

Sanchez said that she thinks that societal pressure plays into women’s disinterest in pursuing engineering.

“If a girl is good at math, society tells them they should go into science, economics or business but engineering is male-based,” Sanchez said.

Rebecca Sheldon, a former enterprise software engineer for CrowdFish said she noticed the same problem in computer science. She is now a programmer but originally went to school for communications.

“I always say that it would be nice to have seen a girl like me in that field growing up because then I could visualize that would be a role I could take,” Sheldon said.

She now mentors other women and young girls. She says that most women she has mentored or worked with came into coding by working in another related profession first like graphic design.

Source: UNLV The Rebel Yell