Women needed in STEM fields

Women outnumber men at most colleges and universities — something that would have been unimaginable at a not-so distant point in history.

Rita Yeung | Daily Trojan

But when it comes to the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — women are still critically underrepresented.

Though the recent increase of women in fields like biology and medicine indicates a significant change in such traditionally male-dominated academic spheres, it is not an across-the-board change.

The increase of female students signals a potential for future growth and integration, yet the lack of women in other STEM areas means universities should be doing more to keep the numbers growing.

As the Daily Trojan reported at the end of last month, more women are receiving master’s degrees nationally in STEM disciplines than ever before.

The number of women with biological and agricultural masters degrees increased 5.4 percent and health science 11.1 percent.

According to a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences report published in February, half of all M.D. degrees and 52 percent of life science Ph.Ds today are held by women. In 1970, only 13 percent of Ph.Ds in life science went to women.

But the changes are simply not happening in computer science, engineering, math and physics.

USC is aware of this, and recognizes the work the university has to do to spur change.

The math department has a variety of programs geared toward women. These include a summer program for all undergraduates thinking about applying to the graduate program as well as one for women who have been accepted to the program, and  a Women in Science and finally an Engineering Program developed to increase the number of women in tenured and tenure-track faculty STEM positions.

These kinds of programs should be offered in all STEM departments.

Outreach and support are key to create a more welcoming environment for women at all levels, from undergraduate to faculty.

Also, exposing high school students to STEM fields is critical so that younger generations realize their interests and options early on.

USC has recognized the importance of early outreach. The university offers a summer science program for high school and even middle school girls at the Phillip K. Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island.

Special women’s programs and initiatives, research grants and enhancement of research opportunities are all proven, effective ways to support and achieve full gender equality.

Women’s clubs on campus, such as the Society of Women Engineers and USC Women in Math, also provides sub-communities for women that enhance and support academic programs.

Clubs such as these definitely help women to be even more determined to prove themselves in these disciplines, independent of extra efforts from the university.

Women working in STEM fields, even the female high school students who are just interested in math and science, are trailblazers who should be proud of their role in changing the face of education. Universities should continue to encourage women to be involved in STEM fields through outreach and programs that assist them.


Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in Spanish. Her column “Beyond the Classroom” runs Mondays. 

5 replies
  1. Quagmire
    Quagmire says:

    Women with decent-sized breasts are critically underrepresented in STEM fields. Honestly, what is it about science that attracts all the homely ones?

    • Not Afraid of Hard Work
      Not Afraid of Hard Work says:

      Quagmire…take your juvenile contributions to Beavis and Butthead…get off the commentary.

      Anti_BAdegree-cynic: same is true for males students…the rigor of the STEM requirements are also a reason to not pursue those related degrees and vocations.

      • anti_ba degree_cynic
        anti_ba degree_cynic says:

        Beavis and Butthead are funny.

        The hot chicks do the slacker majors; see “song girls, sorrorities.” They got to concentrate on their looks, not academics, to get them through life. The homely ones aren’t genetically well-endowed, however you want to interpret that, and hence they focus on academics; but particularly rigorous routes.

        STEM disciplines are rigorous regardless if males or females pursue them.

  2. anti_BA degree_cynic
    anti_BA degree_cynic says:

    So, when I was at Marshall as an undergrad, I came across 2 female students who switched majors to business. One declared pre-med, but she said she “lost passion for it,” and the other was a computer science major but switched to business.

    The computer science major put it plainly, “it was too hard.” The other girl “lost passion” for pre-med courses.

    Are STEM disciplines that hard? Or is business the “fall back” major if you can’t hack STEM disciplines?

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