Women in STEM Club starts small but plans to grow big

Women in STEM has been regrouping themselves to start up their SUNY Oswego club for the first time since COVID-19. There was a pause on many group activities back at the beginning of 2020, and like other gatherings, and some businesses, it has been taking time to bounce back.

For the first few weeks into the spring semester, a group of women has been trying to start up the Women in STEM club for the first time since COVID-19. A group email was sent out at the beginning of February to all women in a STEM-related major by professor Rachel Lee, a geology professor, introducing the idea and asking who is interested in the club. 

 By the next day, there was a multiple thread email sent out about how to get the club re-registered and active again between the president, Elizabeth Mulle, a freshman geology major, and Student Engagement and Leadership on campus. 

“There were a few hoops to jump through in the following few days,” said Mulle.

But after the leadership roles were decided and the re-registration form was completed, the club was ready to have its first meeting. 

Mulle said that the club means a lot to her. 

“[It] shines a light on women who are in the STEM field and shows women could be in science too,” Mule said.

Women have had it rough in the past when it comes to being a part of the science community. Physics professor Natalia Lewandowska experienced some negativity as a kid because she was a girl interested in physics. She was called “very weird” and was told that physics is “what boys do.”

Even while being a graduate student in charge of a research project involving the observation of energy waves she experienced a “very weird attitude” from her male counterparts. 

Despite the criticism and negativity, she pushed through and said it made her who she is today. She herself  “a tough cookie” when standing up for herself, her research and her students. 

“Never let go of what you’re working on,”  Lewandowska said.

But it is getting better as more and more women become interested, encouraged, and accepted. Meteorology professor Kaitlyn Barber said she has been “pretty fortunate” when entering her college and work career. 

Just once during high school at a plant nursery job, she noticed guys were the ones always doing landscaping while she only did weeding and watering of gardens. 

Even growing up she was asked why she doesn’t teach Kindergarten through 12th grade, but she always wanted to do more. 

When entering her science career, she observed women are usually given the jobs of analyzing model data, and verifying data rather than coming up with new solutions or theories. 

But she has noticed some positive changes within the education and science field itself too.

Gender diversity has increased in the STEM fields. Barber has noticed an increase in females with this year’s freshman meteorology class and undergrad research project group at SUNY Oswego. She is also starting to see it at the meteorology graduate level everywhere. 

To keep the acceptance and diversity continuing, the younger generations of girls and women need some inspiration and encouragement to pursue their dreams and goals. In Barber’s case, she has always enjoyed Earth science, observations, and solving problems.

“I like answering questions, I suppose,” said Barber.

The best way to get the younger generation of girls involved in the sciences, according to Barber, is to allow younger girls to be involved in the scientific process “showcasing women doing great things” in leadership positions within a STEM career. 

“You get to do some pretty cool stuff in [science] labs,”

said Mulle

In Barber’s case, it was the enjoyment of problem-solving mixed with wanting to learn about her fear that made Barber interested in her STEM field. While Mulle’s reason was just a general interest in geology and sustainability in urban gardening. 

No matter the reason for first getting interested, it is very important to have a strong support system.

“Build a strong network, don’t let stereotypes hold you back,” Barber said.

To prospecting women who are interested in any STEM field, the advice was similar no matter if it was the professors or a first-year geology student. The main point was to never give up and show that women have a place in the science world too.  

This is what the Women in STEM was created for in the first place, to encourage each other, to be confident and not to give up on personal goals.

As for the future of the Women in STEM Club, the women plan to start advertising their restarted club and plan for what direction they want the club to take starting out. 

“I think the club will grow next year with being able to go to fairs and just get more involved on campus,” said Mulle.