At SUNY Oswego, women often find themselves being the minority in STEM courses, in comparison to men. The STEM field has struggled with the growth of women in the workforce and with accurate representation. Despite this underrepresentation, future engineers and women professionals at SUNY Oswego have made strides to promote women in this field.
Bryleigh Beauchat, a student at SUNY Oswego majoring in technology education, and the president of the Oswego Technology Student Association, is working to be that representation for younger women.
“It’s really hard because sometimes I look around the classroom and it’s all men. All of exactly the same, there’s very little diversity and for education that’s so important,” she said.
As a child, Beauchat often did not see the female representation of engineers, which sometimes became discouraging. This lack of representation still holds true to her experience in college.
In comparison to men, women are also portrayed and categorized in a different light when it comes to their work ethic. These preconceived notions have influenced Beauchat in the ways that she approaches being a woman in STEM.
“For example, when you see a woman and they’re powerful, and in charge. For a guy, that might just be like oh yeah they’re doing a good job, but for a woman, it could be like their bossy, ” she said.
Oftentimes, men also have experience in construction work beforehand, while women come into the field fresh. This stems from the career fields and gender roles that children are taught growing up, therefore, making it harder for women to be confident in their abilities to perform the same.
“The guys have all these skills that they’re coming in with beforehand, I wanna do that just as well if not better, and in order to feel like I need to be there for those students, who aren’t at that level or don’t have those experiences I need to be able to do that too,” she said.
Despite these obstacles, Beauchat recently won first place in the Communication challenge at the Technology and Engineering Education Collegiate Association Conference. Beauchat and her team also made history by being the first female president, vice president, and secretary and the second all round female team for Oswego.
Through this achievement, Beauchat has become an example of what women can accomplish as engineers. Therefore, Beauchat is working to become someone who can be a role model for younger children and motivation for herself.
“I’d like to think that I’m doing it for others, I mean there’s a certain part that’s like yea you’re doing it for yourself too because my major makes me happy and I enjoy doing what I do, ” she said when asked if there is some pressure in being a role model for younger children.
In addition, to Beauchat achieving milestones and accomplishments in STEM, professors at SUNY Oswego are also doing the same.
Serenity Sutherland, a professor at SUNY Oswego recently launched the website, “Visualizing Women in Science” where she highlights the work of past women scientists. This project is in collaboration with the American Philosophical Society.
While creating the project Sutherland had two goals in mind. One goal was to bring attention to older stories of women scientists and to provide inspiration.
“I really want to recover these stories of women in science and get people interested in these stories,” Sutherland said when asked how she wanted her project to promote recognizing women in STEM.
When discussing how the support among women and other groups has changed, over the years, Sutherland said that there have been more groups created where members share commonalities.
One student at SUNY Oswego, Abisola Akinfenwa, majoring in information science, with a minor in electrical engineering and technology, said she has found comfort in STEM groups with women like herself. During her freshman year, Akinfenwa was a part of Women in Computing.
“I’ll say it encouraged me a lot, because in order to do the project we had to work as a group, and our group was made of all women and we were doing our thing….it kind of built a real strong bond within there,” she said when discussing her experience with the group during a hackathon.
Not only was Akinfenwa a part of an organization on campus related to promoting women in STEM, but she was also a part of Girls Who Code.
Overall, Sutherland hopes that the project will offer accessibility for scientists and others. Since the information and stories are presented in a digital medium, viewers can access the site directly from their computers. Also, the website offers an interactive approach to learning about women scientists.