STEM Femmes sponsored a panel discussion by female alumni working as scientists during Working Weekend. Photo by Leah Nash
Reed students have formed a new campus group to discuss issues surrounding women in fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. The STEM Femmes got their start after Prof. Katherine Jones-Smith [physics 2012–13] gave a presentation about women in the STEM fields at a brunch last year.
“The numbers were alarming,” says physics major Allison Morgan ’14, one of the founders of the group.
Women hold just 26% of all STEM jobs, according to a study last year by the Census Bureau. They represent 13% of engineers and 27% of computer professionals. Women’s representation in computer occupations has actually declined since the ’90s.
STEM Femmes hopes to support, inform, and encourage women, who often exit the STEM fields due to a lack of encouragement and guidance. This year the group hosted a panel discussion about gender dynamics in the sciences that featured professors Kathryn Oleson [psychology 1995–], Kjersten Whittington [sociology 2007–], and Rebecca LaLonde ’01 [chemistry 2013–]. The event attracted nearly 40 people, including a number of men. The group also sponsored a panel discussion by female alumni working as scientists during Working Weekend.
Tally Levitz ’14 comes from a family where both parents are working scientists. She remembers a Reed class where students were asked to make presentations on famous scientists. Women made up half of the class, but there wasn’t one female scientist on the list from which to choose.
“It may not be the 1970s,” she says, “but there are still huge gender disparities in STEM fields.”