Smart Living: STEM calling all women

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- If you land a job in science, technology, engineering or math, you’re probably looking at a good salary. The problem is not enough women are getting a shot at these stem jobs. But here is one woman who’s trying to level the playing field when it comes to hiring technology-heavy positions.

Dean Liesl Folks knows first-hand about the struggles women face trying to get science or technology jobs. She’s one of only two dozen women leading science and engineering schools across the nation, a position that looked almost impossible when she first started studying physics in her native Australia.

“My peers ranged from being indifferent to actively hostile in some cases and there were plenty of cases where when you went to touch a piece of equipment the guy you were meant to be working with would say you can’t do that.“ Folks explained to Ivanhoe.

Folks was one of four women enrolled in physics.

“You need about 30 percent of any minority group before it feels to them like they belong so we were well below that number and I didn’t feel like I belonged.” Folks said.

And the numbers aren’t much better today. About one in five students enrolled in the university at buffalo’s school of engineering and applied sciences are women, which is the national average.

Folks continued, “It’s not where we want it to be that’s for sure. And a lot of it is coming from peers. We need to find ways to build up skills so that the girls know how to react when faced with adversity, inequity or even outright bias or discrimination.”

High school senior Adella Toe wants to be a chemical engineer and has advice for other like-minded girls.

“I would encourage them to do what their heart tells them to do and not listen to all the negative comments.” Toe said.

PHD student Neeti Pokhriyal thinks about the message she is sending her daughter.

“If I’m in science I’m also a role model for my child seeing that ok, there are women working in these fields.” Pokhrial stated.

Dean Folks says providing girls and young women with tools to thrive in stem careers not only benefits them, but ultimately the country as a whole.

“We’re not truly competitive as a nation until we get to that point of full inclusion.” Folks concluded.

Folks says her school is currently developing a training program to help students strategize and address issues of inequity and bias.

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Contributors to this news report include: Kris O’Donnell, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Tom Vetter, Videographer; Gabriella Battistiol, News Assistant.

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