We Need Feminism To Help Support Women In STEM

We Need Feminism To Help Support Women In STEM

Making feminism an integral part of the college experience creates strong, smart, independent women.

On my first day of my first semester as an engineering student, I walked into my very first engineering lab. I was a sophomore—a typical student who realized a year into her college career that she hated her degree and wanted to change. Before I was even ten feet into the classroom, a boy grabbed my arm and stopped me.

“This is a first year engineering lab.”

I stared at him dumfounded for a second, before finally saying slowing, “Yeah...I know..."

He smiles and replies “Well, I’d hate for you to accidentally wander into an engineering lab.”

You have got to be kidding me. I have been an engineering student for approximately 15 minutes, and I’ve already been the victim of sexism. As the semester and year went on, it continued, even increased. The men in my engineering group expected me to do all the work, and a professor I have this semester refers to the four women in our class as the “lady engineers”. My advisor told me that I’d be “better off” pursuing a degree in women and gender studies if I was this bothered by the way I was treated by the engineering department.

But this article isn’t about me. This is about all the women across college campuses who are trying to learn in environments where we are the minority. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project study performed in 2011, women only received 19.2 percent of STEM degrees, and women of color only earning 3.1 percent of those degrees in the following year. This isn’t even limited to STEM, and extends into other male-dominated majors that lead to higher-paying jobs.

And if you think—this study was done in 2011, I’m sure things have improved since then!—You’d be wrong.

To make matters worse, it isn’t just engineering. I also am an undergraduate researcher at the James Cancer Center. All the labs are more or less connected, and I am one of the few women within the lab. Luckily, the lab I work in is all women—my graduate fellow is a woman, and all the other undergraduates I work with are women. But most of the primary investigators within my building are men. Most of the labs are run by men, and they therefore hire men. It certainly doesn’t help that most of the people who graduate with STEM degrees are men to begin with.

How do you bridge that gap? How do you encourage women to major in STEM when you always be the minority, whether in classes, in your research lab, etc.? It constantly feels like an uphill battle just to be on the same playing field as the men in the same place.

THIS is why feminism on college campuses is so important. As my favorite Beyoncé song reminds us, “A feminist is a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes." Why is that definition important when talking about college campuses? Equality means that men and women are treated the same way. That means referring to women as just engineers instead of “lady engineers," and encouraging the women who do decide to pursue degrees in STEM majors to stick with it and support them. Representation matters—choosing to hire the few women who do get a degree and giving women someone to talk to about the struggles they have faced. Representation matters. I could repeat it a thousand times, and yet men with fewer qualifications will get hired over the woman every time—just look at the presidential election.

But more than anything else, making feminism an integral part of the college experience creates strong, smart, independent women who won’t take shit from ANYONE. Feminism will bring college women together to love, support and help each other become the best women they can be. They will come together to overcome when the odds are so clearly stacked against them. Destroying the hostile environment for women which college campuses facilitate will do nothing but improve lives for everyone - especially colleges, who are STILL not handling rape and Title IX cases appropriately (like, come on, it’s 2017).

I am a proud feminist. That means that I will fight for ALL women, whether here in the United States or a thousand miles away, and I will continue to fight, yell, and march until there is a time where all my sister women are respected for the badass and smart women they truly are. And when I can be taken seriously when I tell someone that I am a biological engineering major, pre-vet, who wants to become a veterinarian for the military, rather than be told “that’s for men”.

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Will Enough Ever Be Enough?

Yet another school shooting in America, still nothing done. We are dying.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018: We are all heartbroken to hear about another school shooting.

At Great Mills High School in Maryland, a 17-year-old male is pronounced dead at the scene after shooting two other students and a school resource officer. Just before their first period started, at 7:55 am, Austin Rollins shot one male and one female student with a handgun before being shot by the school's resource officer. While the 16-year-old female is in critical condition, the 14-year-old male is currently stable. This is the 17th school shooting in 2018. That's 17 days out of the past 80 that parents have gone to bed with their children in body bags as a result of gun violence.

I don't care what political party you associate with, gun violence is completely out of control. I am a registered Republican and completely agree with stricter gun laws. Learn the difference between a gun ban and sales control. Concerned citizens are not trying to take away your guns, but are trying to take away the rights from those that are risks.

Could you imagine legally having to send your child to school but never coming back? You've packed their lunch, maybe with a special note, and gave them a kiss before they left for school, not knowing that it was their last. No matter where we go, we are not safe. We can't go to malls, movie theaters, schools, or even churches without having to worry if it will be our last trip. Our homes, our places of worship, and our schools are supposed to be the places where we feel safest and, instead, our children are filled with fear. Instead of focusing on the political views that divide these groups, why don't we focus on what unites us? Why don't we focus on protecting our kin?

Everyone has had an opinion on the walkouts that have been happening around the country. Everyone has had an opinion on the 17 minutes of silence for the 17 children lost in the Florida shooting. I've seen people disgusted that Nickelodeon had 17 minutes of broadcast cut because it "interrupted the only program [I] let [my] children watch".

If your child was shot at school, you wouldn't have to worry about what programs they watch, but rather where to bury them and how to afford their memorial.

I've seen people saying that it's no wonder that Millenials are dumb. They "find any excuse to cut class". Have you thought about the fact that they are genuinely worried about going to school?

Personally, I've experienced both a shooting scare at my high school and a bomb threat at my college. I shouldn't have to worry about my life ending. I'm legally forced to go to high school and get an education or I'm putting myself into a lifetime of debt to get a degree.

We are all too young to stress about gun violence. Our school years are supposed to be the times our of lives, but they're being wasted on worrying about dying every day.

Rest in peace to all of those who have lost their lives in shootings, not only this year, but always. Hopes, thoughts, and prayers go out to their loved ones. One day, we will unite and find a solution.

We need to work together and forget the labels of parties and cliques in school and look out for one another instead. There is no kind but mankind.

Cover Image Credit: Boston Herald

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The Republican Versus Democrat Stigma Needs To Slow Down

We Need To Be Individual Again

We as a society have developed an unnecessary need to place people in a specific party based on what could be a single value out of many. This is a letter for those who do not define themselves as one or the other; for those whose values range between conservative and liberal, for those who feel the unfortunate pressure of society to choose one even though your values do not fit just one.

The political parties at one point generally just meant “these are my basic beliefs, so this is the candidate I will vote for because they most closely represent them.” Party affiliation was harmless. Republicans and Democrats could get along fine, differing opinions not getting in the way of relationships and alignment. More importantly, you did not have to be part of a specific political party to be an active member of society. Your opinions and principles were yours.

Over the years following the last two election races, political parties gained a much more significant and defining meaning in our lives as individuals and as members of society. There is a newly developed stigma behind political opinions. You are almost pressured to feel one way or another about every single topic. If a majority of your values are of the conservative agenda, you must be a heart-and-all Republican. In contrast, if you are more liberal-leaning you are docked as a set Democrat. We as citizens are being labeled according to what may be a few hard-values. And dishearteningly enough, can be ridiculed for what we value. Even if you might not value everything the same as your determined party.

There exists those of us that hold values from both parties. It is possible to value women’s rights and also value a traditional marriage. It is possible to be a gun owner and also active in keeping children safe in school. You do not have to just submit to every belief of one party. You can value aspects of different parties and still be a functioning member of the American society. Do not let the looming obligation to declare yourself as strictly one or the other. You do not have to pretend you agree with everything Democratic or everything Republican; you can have your own values. And you should. Our society is messed up in the way that values are pushed on citizens. We are meant to be free individuals with our private values.

It is not fair to those of us who value different things. Not every American is a to-the-bone Democrat or Republican. It is possible to hold liberal beliefs as a conservative person. And Vice-Versa. We need to stop labeling one another as one or the other, conservative or liberal. We need to stop silencing each other because we have differing views. We need to accept not everyone is perfectly one party, and diversity exists. Open mindedness exists in Americans, despite the seemingly growing generalizations. We need to be able to agree to disagree on certain topics.
Cover Image Credit: LexiHanna

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