In partnership with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Kentucky Branch, a group of UK faculty, staff and students got together this fall to propose a new movement called #IAmAWomanInSTEM. This effort is in support of undergraduate women who have taken on the daunting task of persevering in majors (or minors) that rely primarily on the sciences, technologies and mathematics – including engineering and health care professions (aka STEM+H). Inspired by the #distractinglysexy social media campaign launched by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, the IAmAWomanInSTEM steering team has called for volunteers at UK (and beyond) to create a constructive and supportive space for women to showcase their important contributions to STEM+H related academic and professional work.
This initiative will focus on developing and implementing an awareness campaign for all UK undergraduates (via a shared hashtag for social media and a new website) and a mentoring program connecting volunteer UK undergraduate females who are in STEM+H majors and minors with UK female faculty members and women in business and industry with STEM backgrounds. The steering team will offer a monthly Meet-and-Greet for all the mentees and mentors this spring as part of an effort to raise awareness about gender issues in these fields, and to help empower UK women undergraduates to persist in their STEM+H field of studies. Dr. Mary Lynne Capilouto (D.M.D.) has generously offered to host the inaugural IAmAWomanInSTEM Meet-and-Greet in January.
The volunteer undergraduates are identified in the AAUW Campus Action Project as “student ambassadors” and their leadership in raising awareness about the key issues as well as retention and student success for their peers at UK is crucial. The student ambassadors will be asked to post news, events, myths/facts about women in STEM, links to resources, project progress, blog contributions, and narratives using the #IamaWomaninSTEM hashtag as an organizing tool. Some of the IAmAWomanInSTEM student ambassadors will enroll in a service-learning course (UK300) led by members of the steering team and will have opportunities to engage with University and community members in solving authentic community-identified problems and successes associated with gender in STEM-related careers, and to reflect on these experiences with peers and the course co-facilitators.
The IAmAWomanInSTEM steering team of UK faculty, staff and students coordinate and monitor the project; and, the UK Division of Undergraduate Education will host the meetings and handle the administrative tasks associated with the project. AAUW-KY will support the project through communications with business/industry to recruit and retain mentors. The #IamaWomanInSTEM steering team includes:
- Shelby Albers, Mathematics major
- Kate Collins, Physics major
- Mandy Cox, Computer Science major
- Kate Eddens, Assistant Professor, Health Behavior, UK College of Public Health
- Judy Goldsmith, Professor, Computer Science, UK College of Engineering
- Randolph Hollingsworth, Assistant Provost, UK Undergraduate Education
- Ellen Nolan, AAUW-KY chapter president
- Margaret Mohr-Schroeder, Associate Professor, STEM Education, UK College of Education
- Donna Peden, AAUW Bluegrass-Central(KY) branch president
- Thushani Rodrigo-Peiris, Kentucky Bridge to a Biomedical Doctorate Program Administrator, UK College of Medicine
- Sue Scheff, UK Honors Program Academic Advisor and Program Director, AMSTEMM (Appalachian & Minority Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics Majors) and liaison to Kentucky Girls STEM Collaborative
The #IAmAWomanInSTEM initiative will build on existing University of Kentucky student success and retention initiatives and directly address the University’s strategic plan components regarding diversity, high-impact practices for undergraduate education, and civic engagement. AAUW writes on their website about the urgency for supporting UK student leadership in this area:
There are more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs than ever, but women remain severely underrepresented. Studies show that men are paid more and hired more often in engineering and computing careers than equally qualified women. That means the fields that are designing our future are missing the creativity, intellect, and drive of half the population. (AAUW Campus Action Projects)
We hope that with the launch of this initiative at UK, we can better understand how our women undergraduate students feel motivated to persist in their STEM+H-related majors/minors and know what it takes to be successful and graduate. (See past enrollment numbers of UK undergraduates in STEM-related fields by gender at the old Institutional Research website. A previous BluegrassBlade post on this topic of gender and STEM+H undergrads at UK was published in 2013 – we hope to get more up-to-date information as the initiative moves forward.)
Join in the conversation by using the #IAmAWomanInSTEM hashtag. Here are some key communication sites for you to follow/subscribe/bookmark:
If you have any questions or want to know how you might help with this initiative, please contact Dr. Randolph Hollingsworth (email@example.com) or write to the Steering Team at IAmAWomanInSTEM@gmail.com.