Girls In KC STEM

By Adriana Suarez

According to KC Stem Alliance and a government report, “in 2015 women filled 47 percent of all U.S. jobs but occupied only 24 percent of STEM jobs.” In a world where males dominate in STEM fields, women can often feel of less importance and wouldn’t want to compete with that. KC STEM Alliance is a not-for-profit network of organizations working to inspire interest in STEM fields within the greater Kansas City region. It was created in 2011 through funding from Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

One of the many projects they hold to promote their mission is Girls in Tech. Girls in Tech was created to motivate and encourage women to engage in Science, Tech, Engineering and Mathematical career fields. The Stem Alliance states how they’re encouraging this through hands-on experience, connection with mentors, and social media awareness. The Girls in Tech event truly inspires students to code and get involved in the technology field. The program took off in 2015 with the help of sponsorships by organizations such as, Skillbuilders Fund, the Women’s Foundation, and Cerner!

The partners of KC STEM Alliance also encourage girls through other programs in the month of December such as the Hour of Code. In fact, there is actually a need for volunteers for the Girls in Tech KC Hour of code this year on Tuesday, December 10, 2019. It will run from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 4825 Troost Ave., Suite 108 Kansas City, MO 64110.

Any UMKC students, alumni and SCE friends & supporters are welcome to volunteer.

Celebrating Vera Rubin

By Ann Varner

Vera Rubin in 2009

On this day, July 23, in 1928, a woman who made “ground breaking observations that provided evidence for the existence of a vast amount of dark matter in the universe” was born. That woman was Vera Rubin. It is always important to celebrate our women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) and today is a great day to celebrate this great American astronomer.

Vera Rubin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and died on December 25, 2016 in Princeton, New Jersey. The New York Times reported that Vera became “entranced by astronomy from watching the stars wheel past her bedroom window.”  She went to Vassar College for her undergraduate degree and graduated the sole astronomer in her class. The New York Times also states that she had hoped to go to Princeton to get her PhD but the astrophysics graduate program did not admit women. Not deterred, she went to Cornell to obtain her master’s degree and then earned her PhD from Georgetown University.

Rubin taught at Montgomery College and Georgetown and then The Carnegie Institution. Despite the sexism she was met with in her field, she was able to build a successful career making important scientific discoveries, winning awards, and being an advocate for women in science. She was admitted to the National Academy of Sciences in 1981 and awarded the National Medal of Science in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. Rubin is a pioneer in astrophysics for women and an inspiration to keep pushing forward in a male dominated field.

The Scully Effect

By Ann Varner

One of the earliest memories I have is from when I was four years old. I would sneak out of my bedroom so I could peak around the corner in the living room and watch The X-Files as my mom was watching it. One would assume that a four year old watching The X-Files would traumatize me but instead I was fascinated. I was not too stealthy however, and eventually my mother caught me. Because I was not having nightmares over the show she gave in and let me watch it with her. Perhaps this began my love of science, alien movies, and wondering about the great unknown. After the reboot of The X-Files a few years ago, I recently discovered there was something called “The Scully Effect”. One of the two main characters of the show is Special Agent Dana Scully. Scully is an M.D. who is assigned to work with another agent on X-Files and use her knowledge to be objectively solve cases. In 1993 when the show aired, it was a revelation to have a woman who was a scientist as well as an authority figure. The show broke all the gender norms and it showed young girls that they could aspire to be in law enforcement and STEM fields.

“A reported increase in women entering law enforcement and STEM fields was attributed to the character, and named The Scully Effect. After an additional 25 years of study, the reported impact of The Scully effect can in part be understood in terms of how children and teens build their view of the world around them through media consumption” (thescientificparent.org).

Instead of watching cartoons I watched The X-Files, and as an adult I continue to enjoy the show.

Marie Curie: The Pioneer for Women in Science

By Ann Varner

Nothing in this world is to be feared…only understood.

Marie Curie not only was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, she was also the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice. Born in Poland on November 7, 1867, she was the youngest of five children. The only university in Warsaw was a men’s only school. However, Curie discovered an underground university for women and studied physics, chemistry, and math. Curie and her husband discovered polonium and radium, which assisted in the development of x-rays. She also discovered radioactivity and was the one to name it as such. When World War I broke out Curie helped to develop portable x-rays so that soldiers could be examined on the field. Curie died in 1934 due to prolonged exposure to radiation. She was a pioneer for women in science and a role model for women everywhere.

You can follow this link to find out more!

Wanted: Women in Science

By Ann Varner

Every Monday a group of women and I meet for our Women in Science (WiSci) meeting. This group of diverse women have become the highlight of my Mondays. We all have different majors ranging from chemistry to political science, but that doesn’t stop us. We do many activities on campus including volunteering, hosting lunches with women in science, attending science, technology, engineering, and mathematics panel discussions, and talking about Game of Thrones and our lives in general.

If you have any interest in being a part of the UMKC campus life or just getting together with a great group of women, feel free to attend a meeting in the UMKC Women’s Center on Mondays from 2-3. It’s a common fact that the science field is dominated by males, so it’s nice to find other feminists and women to get more involved.

Contact Diamond Anderson dnahyd@mail.umkc.edu for more information.

 

 

Fridays are for Feminism

By Ann Varner

Last Friday, the Women’s Center had a great turn out for the showing of the movie Hidden Figures. There was all the pizza, popcorn, and M&Ms you could ever want while watching this funny and heartwarming movie.

I won’t include any spoilers, but if you haven’t seen it, do it now. You’re missing out.

This event continued our Feminist Friday series. Crafty Feminist Friday returns Oct. 13, and we’ll watch and discuss The Girl on the Train on Oct. 27. These events start at noon—think of them as long, feminist lunch breaks!

As always, stay updated with our events by checking the blogs or watching for fliers on campus.

STEAM: The Future is Female

By Caroline Turner

This week UMKC is hosting an Oral & Craniofacial Sciences Seminar, and with the Women in STEAM initiative going into its second year at the Women’s Center, it seems like the perfect moment to talk about Women in Sciences.

Reading through just a few stories of women in science history, I was shocked, surprised, and saddened as it alarmingly appeared repeatedly that teachers or dads told them that they cannot go into science or math. It was believed this wasn’t something a woman could or should do. Thankfully these women did it anyway, and contributed to these fields in ways nobody could have imagined. Although many of the women involved in our long history of science and math over many centuries faced issues of being told they can’t or shouldn’t do it, or lacked the resources that males received, the same root issues are still prevalent today. In a New York Times article about this, the author delves into how today these same attitudes dilute the science and math fields, even within women scientists. The imaginative possibility as well as the reality of being a woman in science or math is not something that is promoted – in fact it is perhaps unintentionally demoted. Women who continue to pursue sciences are underpaid, under hired, and discouraged throughout their academic and professional careers. The article talks about the quantitative and qualitative evidence of what causes there to be fewer women in these fields, through many statistics and the accounts of many women throughout the academic and professional field. The article states, “Only one-fifth of physics Ph.D.’s in this country are awarded to women, and only about half of those women are American; of all the physics professors in the United States, only 14 percent are women. The numbers of black and Hispanic scientists are even lower; in a typical year, 13 African-Americans and 20 Latinos of either sex receive Ph.D.’s in physics.” From many of the personal accounts of the women who did pursue the field, many of them experienced being the only woman in the class, being ostracized and belittled by other male students and even professors, one who graded the male students with a “boy curve” and the one female student by a separate “girl curve,” explaining that, “he couldn’t reasonably expect a girl to compete in physics on equal terms with boys.” Faculty encouragement that should shed light on opportunities and open doors for women is often not there; consequently, they may even darken opportunities and shut doors to women.

The article however also points out the great improvements that have been done to include women. As more attention is being brought to why women are missing in these departments, it is becoming common for science and math fields to begin celebrating having more women, “boasting” their 30% female researchers, 40% female colleagues, etc. The call for action from the NYT reporter included asking for “scientists of both sexes to realize that they can’t always see the way their bias affects their day-to-day lives,” and, “most of all, we need to make sure that women-and men- don’t grow up in a society in which they absorb images of scientists as geeky male misfits,” referring to the popular TV sitcom, the Big Bang Theory.

Just earlier this month we shared an article on our Facebook page about the strides NASA has made with their recent training program, in which 5 of 12 astronauts in the new class are female. This news follows the success of the movie, Hidden Figures that came out this year. The movie tells the story of a group of women who worked at Langley Research Center, the precursor to NASA that was crucial to Sputnik and Silicon Valley, and produced many advancements to science/ math.

In fall 2016, the UMKC Women’s Center in partnership with several academic units at UMKC launched the Women in STEAM Program. Women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) was implemented as part of the Provost’s Strategic Funding Initiatives. The mission of the Women in STEAM Program is to foster the personal, academic, and professional development of female students in math, engineering, technology, and science and the University of Missouri- Kansas City, and to inspire and develop future female innovators with a challenging, integrated co-curricular experience that embraces the joyful aspect of play and discovery. This program benefits females in STEAM by helping to improve the learning environment at UMKC, and increasing the retention rate of female students in STEM fields.

The integration of arts in the existing STEM program has become a movement nationwide. Since the early beginnings of science, creativity and art have always been engrained in the best scientists. As early photographer Charles Negre (1820-1880) once wrote, “Where science ends, art begins.”

Today, although we are making progress, there is still much to be done. Recognizing where biases exists in STEM fields is the first step. Encouraging women within these fields is next step. Celebrating women existing in science and math is the third step, in which would create a cycle that encourages young girls to walk into an open door, a beautiful door of exploration, discovery, and limitlessness that is STEAM!