Four alumna discuss obstacles at Women in Science panel

John Melendez

Last Friday, a young woman in the audience of a campus lecture hall asked a panel of mathematicians and scientists how she was supposed to cope in a world that is so hard and confusing for women. 

After a brief silence, one of the panelists jokingly said, “Krav Maga,” in reference to an Israeli style of self-defense.

The Women in Natural Sciences and Women in Computer Science organizations held the panel with four alumni from the College of Natural Sciences. Discussion focused on the barriers and opportunities the alumni faced throughout their careers.

“I am very often surrounded by men,” said panelist Leticia Nogueira, director of the Texas Environmental and Injury Epidemiology and Toxicology Unit. “It’s really easy for you to feel like you don’t belong in the room that you’re in.”

Physics and astronomy freshman Danielle Maldonado said lectures like this send a message to young girls who want to pursue education in STEM fields, or those in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It’s important for young girls to see older women who are in these positions to use them as role models so that they don’t give up on their dreams,” Maldonado said. “I know that there will be challenges as a girl in STEM, but (the panel) has shown me that being persistent will get you where you want to be.”

Although experiences between the panelists varied, they all agreed on the importance of sticking together as women.

“Until there is a closer 50/50 proportion of (male and female) scientists in any field, then we still have a lot to do,” Nogueira said. “If (young girls) show interest for (science), try and cultivate that.”

Jessica Vallejo, who is taking pre-med classes at UT, said there is still a lot of progress to be made for women.

“I guess pre-med is more 50/50 than it used to be,” Vallejo said. “But a lot of my pre-med classes are still mostly male. In the workforce, the higher up you get, it’s more male-dominated.”

Jennifer Glasgow, CEO of JBG Strategies, which she founded, shared her thoughts on how the next generation of women will make advances in STEM fields.

“I think we did it with persistence,” Glasgow said. “We have shown the world that we can compete with the guys. I don’t think we need to do anything substantially different. Look for ways to overcome (inequality).”