Women advance in barred fields

By Madison Fessler

The world is allowing women more opportunities than what was granted in the past. Women can advance in careers based on their passions and ambitions compared to when they were previously barred from male-dominated occupations, like science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The ratio of men to women in undergraduate programs in the college of STEM at Youngstown State University has increased by 6.74% since 2017. In 2017, the ratio of men to women in the STEM college was 2,391 to 1,050. In 2021, the ratio was 1,597 to 948.

Despite the increase of women in STEM, the overall number of students enrolled in STEM decreased by 920 from 2017 to 2021.

Emilie Brown, coordinator of STEM outreach and scholarships, stated the college holds many events to attract prospective students, especially women. 

She stated the college of STEM does outreach to the community through STEM festivals, college fairs and speaking to K-12 classes about STEM careers. 

Since women have historically been barred from STEM programs, it’s important to reach out to them in order to close the gender gap in these fields of study according to professor of mathematics, Alicia Prieto Langarica.

Langarica said that women need to be in male-dominated careers to offer new perspectives.

“When things are created, when things are done, when there’s no women in the room — men only have one perspective,” Langarica said.

She said when women are in the room where decisions are made, different ideas are presented. Langarica said it breaks down barriers where formerly women and children were not previously considered.

The college holds weekly STEM visits that target high school students. Brown also stated that she travels to schools to promote one of the college’s many scholarships.

“I specifically go out to the schools to promote our Choose Ohio First Scholarship, which has as one of its many missions, to increase the number of females in STEM,” Brown stated.

Brown stated the college received a grant from the Howmet Aerospace Foundation for 2022-2023 and 2023-2024. This grant focuses on recruiting and retaining female and minority students in STEM.

Only five high school seniors were accepted into the 2022-2023 cohort and four of these students were female. The grant provided these students with opportunities to prepare them for college.

“We are working to get them connected and supported on campus as well as increasing their math readiness so they have the best chance of success once they start their college courses,” Brown stated.

Once the requirements for the Howmet Aerospace Foundation grant are completed, these students are provided a Choose Ohio First Scholarship to support them once they’re on campus.

Brown explained opportunities the college of STEM has for current and incoming female students. The college has set up scholarships and is implementing many opportunities geared toward women in STEM.

“For 25 years, YSU has hosted Women in STEM Career Day specifically to promote STEM fields to young women through panels and hands-on demos and activities. We had to take this year off due to staffing changes, but that [Women in STEM Career Day] event will return next spring,” Brown stated.

The college also offers specific organizations like The Society for Women Engineers, which advocates for women in engineering and technology. The society also assists in networking and career-oriented attributes.

The Association for Women in Mathematics, where Langarica is the faculty advisor, encourages women to study and have active careers in mathematical sciences. The association also promotes equal opportunity and treatment of women in math. 

STEM is not the only field where men dominate the population. Campus programs like Reserve Officers’ Training Corps have also been historically male dominated.

The U.S. Army said women entered the Army ROTC Program in September 1972. The first female cadets graduated May 1, 1976.

Ellie Maurice, a sophomore marketing major, stated she was happy to see a female cadet when she joined the program and feels fortunate in how she has been treated by commanders and sergeants in ROTC.

Maurice stated her former cadet battalion commander was a great role model and helped her learn that she could be accepted in a primarily male-dominated field.

“In full transparency, I went into the program with an air of caution, expecting there to be some difference in the way I was treated, but I have been pretty lucky,” Maurice stated.

For more information on STEM outreach and scholarships, visit ysu.edu. For more information about ROTC, visit YSU’s ROTC program website.