Women And STEM Careers

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Despite improvements women still are a minority in jobs pertaining to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

According to a 2005 survey from the American Association of University Women, only 15 percent of women in their freshman year of college declare a STEM related major, compared to over 25 percent of men.

This is because bias, both conscious and unconscious, held against women in STEM fields, according to the AAUW.

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In 1955, Becky Plassman’s mother was one of three women in the country with a degree in physics.

“She was often denied jobs because she was a woman,” said Plassman, a mathematics professor at Central Oregon Community College.

Plassman believes the biases previously held against women entering STEM fields are slowly going away.

“It’s getting better,” Plassman said. “However, it’s not fixed. You have to have the guts to keep going.”

Although more women are graduating with STEM degrees, fewer are actually getting jobs in those areas, according to Taran Smith, advisor for the COCC branch of the AAUW.

“Just because there are students graduating with STEM degrees doesn’t mean they are going into the field as careers,” Smith said.

Getting women to pursue careers in STEM is something that the COCC AAUW is working to promote. According to Smith every year the AAUW funds resources, materials, training and support for programs promoting STEM education for women and girls. Smith believes that female disadvantage in STEM starts in middle school when children are put in different math courses. Since girls are often placed in lower math levels, often due to unconscious stereotypes, by the time they reach high school they are already behind.

Even though job opportunities in STEM fields have shown growth in past years, Tracy Dula, career advisor at COCC encourages students to only enter a field they’re passionate about.

“Students should make sure its something that they’re passionate about,” Dula said.

Juli Wright | The Broadside
(Contact: jwright6@cocc.edu)

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