WVU Magazine: Women in STEM

Amy Keesee

Women in STEM

Written by Amy Keesee, Research Assistant Professor of Physics President, West Virginia Chapter, Association for Women in Science

Photo by M.G. Ellis

Women have come a long way in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

While women have been involved in science for centuries, much of their work had to be performed by using the resources and name of a male colleague, often with little compensation or recognition.

As women have joined the workforce, the number of women in the STEM fields has greatly increased. In some areas, such as biology, parity has been reached. But in other fields, such as computer science, the number remains low.

Whatever the reason for the current trends, it is important to recruit and retain a diverse population in the STEM disciplines. Diversity of all kinds, whether in gender or race, enables people to combine a wide variety of experiences and ways of thinking when solving problems.

Women in the STEM disciplines at WVU play an important role in the recruitment and retention of new faculty. Potential candidates will see that WVU provides an environment for professional development and teaching skills enhancement. New hires can maintain their momentum with mentoring from senior female faculty members, who can offer advice about resources and policies as well as share best practices for success.

The legacy of women in STEM fields at WVU has paved the way for today’s female faculty by demonstrating that women can be successful scientists and academic faculty. The women before us have emphasized the need for institutional policies as a way to remove the barriers and unconscious biases that impede the development of female faculty.

Female faculty at WVU collaborate to create programs that provide the resources and networking necessary for female professionals to thrive.

The recently developed WVU ADVANCE Center, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, is studying the best practices for retaining female faculty at WVU. The ADVANCE Center and the WVU chapter of the Association for Women in Science will continue to work together to provide workshops and other useful events.

Additional funds are planned through the WISE Giving Circle, which will provide support for junior female faculty and students in STEM fields. All of these resources should result in improved recruitment and retention of female faculty members at WVU.

As women pursue successful academic careers in STEM fields, they will inspire the next generation of scientists. Young girls must see female role models who can foster their interests in science, engineering, and math. To help this occur, the Association for Women in Science organizes outreach programs for middle and high school students in partnership with groups such as the Health Sciences and Technology Academy and the WVU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers.

The future of STEM at WVU is bright, and I am very proud and excited to be a part of it.

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