Campus Teams Busting Biases about Women in STEMFebruary 08, 2016
If 2015 taught us one thing, it’s that college students are poised to create real changes in their campus communities. So far this year, AAUW student affiliates have challenged the status quo and rallied around AAUW issues like pay equity and campus sexual assault. Now, students are also energized about tackling the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. We are proud to announce the 10 Campus Action Project grantees who will continue AAUW’s tradition of campus activism with projects that break down barriers for women and girls in computing and engineering.
AAUW’s research report Solving the Equation: The Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing explained how stereotypes and biases harm women in engineering and computing. This year’s CAP teams will be tackling those biases and creating positive climates for women in STEM within their communities through mentorship programs, awareness campaigns, events, and speakers.
Get inspired by our powerhouse 2015–16 Campus Action Project grantees below!
Dakota State University
Madison, South Dakota
The Dakota State University team worked to increase awareness of STEM-related fields by visiting and working with middle and high school girls. Faculty and students brought mobile labs with Dot and Dash robots and science and cryptography kits to girls to teach them about engineering and coding firsthand. The experiments also showed girls the exciting possibilities of all STEM fields. The seven-person CAP team created interactive social media content and blogs to continue mentoring students, offering more opportunities for girls to explore and create science and technology.
Environmental Attitudes: Workplace Conditions for Women in Engineering and Computing
Kansas City Kansas Community College
Kansas City, Kansas
The Kansas City Kansas Community College project sought to inform, educate, and encourage a broader understanding of workplace environments, including the perceptions and attitudes that influence gender equity. In February, the school’s AAUW student organization surveyed college students about their perceptions of women in engineering and computing. In March, the team hosted a panel discussion on workplace attitudes in engineering and computing and presented the survey results. Panelists from the engineering and computing fields shared experiences from the workplace. The team concluded its project with discussions about workplace gender equity following screenings of selected short films.
Building a STEM Community
Oregon State University, Cascades
In collaboration with the Central Oregon STEM Hub and the AAUW Bend (OR) Branch, the AAUW student organization at Oregon State University, Cascades, hosted an evening with Bonnie Buratti, a NASA senior research scientist. Along with their families, middle and high school students from the area were invited to hear Buratti discuss her journey to becoming an astrophysicist as well as what it takes to become a scientist today.
The CAP team also promoted a mentoring program with local school districts to connect undergraduate mentors with K–12 students interested in all STEM fields. This project aimed to increase community awareness of the need for women in engineering and computing.
Social Change STEMs from Girl Power
Purdue University’s six-person CAP team collaborated with Purdue’s AAUW student organization to plan a “girls’ night” at a local science museum. This event aimed to expose elementary school girls to careers and opportunities in engineering and technology fields. Purdue’s team planned on-campus activities to raise awareness about women in STEM fields, including a giant display with cut-out numbers representing relevant statistics about the lack of women in engineering and computing. As people walk by, the team distributed “fast facts” about institutionalized sexism and how everybody can help get more women in STEM. Purdue is opportunely positioned to host these events; despite its highly ranked engineering program, less than a quarter of Purdue engineering students are women.
Girls Can Do It!
Aiming to encourage underserved girls in the Trinity College community to consider STEM fields as realistic career options, Girls Can Do It! challenged sexist stereotypes in these fields.
This spring, a team of Trinity College students served as mentors and provided positive examples of women in engineering and computing to a local Girl Scout troop. The team developed an age-appropriate robotics curriculum, taught basic robotics principles, and generated discussion groups based on challenges and opportunities in engineering. The hands-on program inspired girls to consider pursuing STEM fields and fostered life lessons like problem solving, empowerment, and overcoming obstacles. The team’s project built a supportive community for women and girls, since studies suggest that peer support and mentoring opportunities are factors in satisfaction for women in STEM educational programs. Trinity College’s team hopes that its project built on existing relationships to create a robust community of support for women and girls.
The Delta Initiative
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama’s CAP team collaborated with the school’s AAUW student organization, the Women and Gender Resource Center, and the AAUW Tuscaloosa (AL) Branch to produce materials and host events to recognize local women for their contributions to STEM-related fields. To increase awareness of women in STEM at the University of Alabama and in the greater community, the initiative engaged with students through multiple media including video, print, and social media.
The team’s videos featured women doing STEM work that impacts society, and its posters highlighted women at work in STEM fields, with the intention of engaging both current and prospective students. The team posted these materials in high-traffic areas on campus and shared them online with #CapstoneWomeninSTEM. Additionally, the Delta Initiative team hosted a discussion group with AAUW student affiliates and women in campus STEM organizations, as well as a reception and public screening of the completed videos during Women’s History Month in March.
UAB Girls in Science and Engineering Day
University of Alabama, Birmingham
The University of Alabama, Birmingham’s joint undergraduate and graduate student team set out to tackle barriers that discourage young women of all backgrounds from entering STEM fields. The team recruited girls in sixth through eighth grade from the area to participate in a daylong interactive event. This event fostered STEM academic interests and facilitated short- and long-term educational and career goals. STEM leaders from the university and the surrounding community taught a variety of hands-on workshops throughout the day. The event focused on exposing girls to scientific concepts and careers while encouraging them to be confident in their skills. Given that many girls doubt their ability to succeed in STEM fields due to lack of encouragement, stereotypes and biases, and lack of access to role models, the Alabama team’s event helped bridge the gap between a passion for learning and academic and career success.
#IAmAWomanInSTEM Awareness Campaign
University of Kentucky
Inspired by the #distractinglysexy social media campaign, the team from the University of Kentucky developed and implemented an awareness campaign for undergraduate students using #IAmAWomanInSTEM. The team also planned a mentoring program connecting undergraduate women studying STEM with women faculty members and STEM business and industry leaders. Some of the student team members even earned college credit through a service-learning class for their leadership role in the campaign! The initiative also gave back to the university, since it builds on existing University of Kentucky student success and retention initiatives, and it directly addressed the university’s strategic plan regarding diversity and civic engagement.
Plan Your Future in Engineering and Computer Science Event
University of West Georgia
The goal of this project was to empower and educate young women about the possibilities and realities of pursuing a doctoral degree. College Girls Rock, a student-led campus group from the University of West Georgia, identified a need to educate college-bound women interested in computing and engineering. The university is located about 50 miles outside of Atlanta, which has several world-class computing and engineering university programs. The CAP team decided to capitalize on its proximity to these schools with a project to inspire young women to pursue STEM fields.
The team invited women doctoral candidates from Atlanta-area schools to its event, Plan Your Future in Engineering and Computer Science. At the event, high school girls met local graduate school program representatives. A panel of women pursuing doctoral degrees in STEM fields provided their perspective on work-life balance and the challenges they overcame to pursue their doctorates and academic positions.
Reducing Stereotype Threat at Valparaiso University
Women and minorities are often faced with unintentional but deeply harmful stereotypes, as well as stereotype threat — the threat of being judged by a negative stereotype associated with one’s group, which causes many girls to avoid the traditionally “male” fields of math and science. To tackle this issue, the team at Valparaiso University will host Catherine Good, a nationally recognized researcher and speaker on stereotype threat, for a two-day lecture and workshop. Good will speak to faculty in STEM and work with them to improve teaching and mentoring practices. She will also deliver a talk aimed at empowering students with tools to recognize and combat the negative influences of stereotypes. The five-person Valparaiso team is being supported by the Society of Women Engineers and the Athena Society, an AAUW student organization.
AAUW awards grants of up to $5000 to student groups taking action for women and girls in their communities.
These amazing college advocates have completed projects that bust gender stereotypes and the discrimination and bias that result.
The 2012–13 Campus Action Project teams designed advocacy projects based on AAUW’s research on the pay gap one year after college graduation.