UT empowers female students through new Women in STEM program

Fernanda Figueroa, News Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the November 12 flipbook. 

The University is looking to encourage women to step into and feel more comfortable in science, technology, engineering and math roles with the Women in STEM program, which debuted Monday.

Women in STEM will build upon the work of the Women in Engineering Program, which has existed for 30 years, to increase the number of women in engineering, said Tricia Berry, Women in STEM’s executive director. Berry said the new program will broaden its predecessor’s initiatives, such as summer camps, to apply to all STEM fields. The program will also expand on the Women in Engineering Program’s various pre-college initiatives.

“Our goals are to advance gender equity in STEM spaces,” Berry said. “We look to increase the numbers and percentages of women pursuing STEM majors that we have on campus and graduating those students at even higher rates and getting them out to change our world.”

Berry said Women in STEM will adopt previous programs such as Girl Day, a yearly festival that gives K-12 students hands-on STEM experience.

“We will likely be adding more opportunities for high school students to explore other STEM majors,” Berry said. “We’ll also be looking to see how we can serve students in STEM majors outside of engineering that perhaps had not had the opportunities to connect with role models or to participate in STEM focused leadership programming.”

Because women in STEM are underrepresented, Berry said it is important to create opportunities for young girls to see themselves as STEM professionals and feel comfortable in their abilities. Berry said she hopes the new program can help meet the growing demand for STEM professionals going into the workforce.

Sanju Vardhan, treasurer for the Society for Advancing Gender Equity in STEM, said she hopes the program will reach a wider audience of STEM majors.

“It’s broadening the horizons … to support women in STEM,” graduate student Vardhan said. “Not just in engineering, but … on a broad level at UT.”

SAGES president Emma Gugala said she hopes Women in STEM will connect students with alumni from various STEM fields, building on WEP’s Mentor Monday alumni-advice program. 

“We are hoping that by taking this up to the University level and kind of out of the engineering college, this will help them bring in more diverse groups of speakers. Their speakers are all engineers,” Gugala said. “Hopefully they’ll continue to have these very interesting events going forward with a more diverse group of people from broader STEM fields.”