STEM women try to advance in a man’s world

UMBC needs to better support STEM undergraduate females

By Tahsin Khan

Senior Staff Writer

Although UMBC is a STEM powerhouse, they should do more to make sure that undergraduate women are fully supported and do not feel left behind. Additionally, UMBC should hire more female faculty in the engineering and technology departments.

Home of the nationally-recognized Meyerhoff Scholars, CWIT, and ADVANCE programs, UMBC is a strong and progressive institution when it comes to the STEM fields. However, more should be done to make sure undergraduate STEM women feel confident and fully supported at UMBC.

The Meyerhoff Scholars Program promotes diversity and leadership among the students of STEM fields. This includes supporting women who wish to pursue graduate studies in engineering and the sciences.

Students not part of the Meyerhoff program can apply to be a “Affiliate Scholar.” Although they do not get financial assistance, students do receive the invaluable advising and support of the Meyerhoff staff. Unfortunately, many students are unaware of this opportunity.

Abeeha Fatima, a junior transfer student majoring in biology, states, “I did hear about Meyerhoff at the Transfer Orientation, but they didn’t talk about how to become one or even mention [affiliates].” Advertising such support systems to women is essential in reinforcing their success and advancement.

The Center of Women In Technology is an amazing program for women undergraduates. Even if a student is not a CWIT Scholar, they can still become a CWIT Affiliate. The CWIT program even invites non-Scholars to join their organization.

“I think UMBC does a good job supporting its women in STEM. I know I personally get regular emails from CWIT about upcoming events such as guest speakers and meetings,” says Elizabeth Cardosa, a junior majoring in bioinformatics.

UMBC does offer effective support programs to women in the engineering and technology fields, but the classroom experience is a whole different story. Many times females can be intimidated by a heavily male-populated setting.

Cardosa adds, “I think more women professors, TA’s and tutors in classes where females are a minority would be beneficial. Men and women often think differently so having someone who thinks more similarly may be more comfortable to ask for help.”

Taught by three male professor, only 15 percent of the 206-student CMSC 202 course is composed of women. In spring 2014, this same course had only one female TA and four male TAs. On the other spectrum of the STEM fields, the BIOL 303 is taught by two female professors, two female graduate TAs, and nine female and five male undergraduate discussion leaders.

There needs to be more female teaching staff in the engineering and technology departments, so undergraduate women are confident in their learning environments. “My friend is in a computer science class here at UMBC and she always tells me about how she feels like she cannot approach her male professor,” said Fatima.

If women have an overall positive undergraduate experience, then they will be encouraged to pursue graduate studies in their respective fields. The ADVANCE program at UMBC helps women faculty navigate through and advance in their careers.

Many undergraduates are unaware of the ADVANCE program as it does not directly apply to them. But if they were to be educated about its benefits, then they might be empowered to earn higher degrees.

UMBC does have a strong STEM background. But for women to feel comfortable and equal to their male counterparts, there needs to be more female staff in the engineering and technology fields along with greater advertizing of support programs.