Dr. Sharnia Artis, the keynote speaker at the Fifth Annual Women’s Forum held March 9 asked what images normally pop up in one’s mind when thinking of someone in science, technology, engineering and math fields, many of the audience members replied that they see an image of a man.
The forum held by the Cadena Cultural Center and the Social Science Division allowed for open discussion between men and women regarding gender inequality in the STEM workforce.
Artis is an engineer and Director of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering at University of California, Irvine.
Artis stressed that there are some plus points to being outnumbered as a woman in a STEM field.
“For the women that are here sometimes being afraid of the only one, look at this as an opportunity to show how awesome that you really are,” Artis said. ““When I am the only one and often times I am the only one, that gives me the ability to stand out and shine.”
She went on to discuss the importance of having a role model when pursuing these fields. She looked up to Mae Jameson, the first African American woman to travel to space in the 1922 NASA Endeavor Mission.
“In 1992 when she [Jameson] participated in this mission, I was around 12 at that time and thought it was pretty fascinating, a woman in space,” Artis said.
She explained that men in STEM classes can also make a difference in the way they interact with their female counterparts.
“You [male students] can be an ally by stepping up for them [females] and making sure they are engaged,” Artis said.
The event included two components, the keynote and table discussions. For the discussion portion the audience members were seated in different tables and given a set of questions each with a facilitator in charge of guiding the talks.
Much of the discourse centered on finding new ways to open up the playing field to make women feel more comfortable. However, many also included that at a certain point a female needs to take matters into her own hands and just pursue their passions against all odds.
“You have to have the courage to step out and go for it, I know it sounds like a cliché, but sometimes you have to make a way out of no way,” said Dr. Savannah Jones, Interim VP of Student Services.
Isabelle Santana is an anthropology major and plans on going to medical school. This forum provided insight on different approaches she could take in pursuing that goal.
“I liked how she [Artis] went over different avenues you can explore because I had completely disregarded the idea of majoring in engineering and then going to medical school,” Santana said. “It kind of brought that thought back.”