October 13, 2016
"If you do good work, your intellect should speak for itself."
That is what Associate Professor of Chemistry Lou Ann Tom said during a panel discussion in front of a room full of Susquehanna University students ready to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
All of the students at the event were women, as were the panelists in front of them: Helen Kiso, assistant professor of psychology; Lisa Schneider, visiting assistant professor of mathematical science; and Chandra Childress, chemistry lab coordinator in the Natural Sciences Center.
The discussion was meant to give students an idea of what it's like to navigate a career in male-dominated STEM fields.
Among STEM jobs, women's representation has varied over time, but they have historically been underrepresented. In 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, women comprised 27 percent of the computer and math workforce. Engineers were the second-largest STEM occupational group, but only about one out of every seven engineers is female.
Despite this, Schneider said she doesn't remember being bothered by her gender status.
"There were 27 students in my graduate school class, and only five were female. And after the first semester, there were only two of us left," Schneider said. "But I never felt too bad that I was the only woman."
But that doesn't mean that she didn't notice some differences.
"We would say something and no one would be listening," she said. "But over time my work spoke for itself."
The panelists also offered their younger counterparts some advice.
On work-life balance: "It is important to develop a social support system," Kiso said.
On graduate school selection: "See how many women have tenured positions in the department in which you are interested," Schneider said. "Make sure there is balance and respect there."
On undergraduate experience: "Try different things. Try undergraduate research, a summer program, an internship," Childress said. "Those little experiences can at least give you a hint of what you would like to do."