WKU professors promote women’s involvement in science

Brittiny Moore

Cards Against Humanity may be just “a party game for horrible people,” according to the game’s website, but that didn’t stop the company from helping undergraduate women studying in scientific fields.

According to the Huffington Post, the card game creators are now offering full four-year scholarships to women in STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Science Ambassador Scholarship is fundraising through the sale of a $10 science-themed expansion pack.

“Women are underrepresented in science, tech, engineering, and math,” Cards Against Humanity co-creator Josh Dillon said in a press release. “We felt like the funding from this pack could have the greatest impact by making it possible for more women to get an education in those fields, and by giving them a platform to share their work and their passion for science.”

According to the scholarship’s website, over half a million dollars have been raised thus far. Fifty women working professionally in engineering and science make up the scholarship’s panel of judges. 

“We desperately need diversity in science because the alternative makes no sense,” scholarship board member Veronica Berns said in the press release. “So often girls are told in both overt and subtle ways that they aren’t able to be good at math and science.”

WKU is also making advances in the advocacy of women in science.

“If you actually look at the number of undergraduate women who choose to major in the sciences, it’s pretty good in math, biology, chemistry, agriculture and social sciences like psychology,” said Cheryl Stevens, the dean of the Ogden College of Science and Engineering. “About half, or a little more than half, are women.”

Stevens added, however, that this was not the case for all STEM fields. 

“The engineering, manufacturing and computer science … are very underrepresented for lots of reasons,” she said.

Women remain an underrepresented group in STEM, the Huffington Post said. In the United States, women make up only 12 percent of the engineering workforce and 26 percent at WKU — math, biology, chemistry, agriculture and social sciences — women who go in usually get to a point where they drop out, Stevens said.

“They call it a ‘leaky pipeline,’” she explained, “which means as [women] get further and further along, they hit places where it’s not going to work out for them, and they just leave.”

Stevens noted that women need to be in workplaces with more personal flexibility for them to gain greater success.

“There are a lot of people who are aware of this and are adapting to the work environment to be more supportive of women,” she said, “and not just women, but anyone who has challenges such as family situations.”

Stevens is currently working on a grant proposal with Margaret Crowder, a geology instructor for the department of geography and geology, to help WKU develop a strategy for institutional transformation to create an environment that all women can be successful in.

Crowder said she was fascinated by the field at a young age thanks to her mom, a science teacher.

“[What] happens with a lot of young women growing up is if they don’t have the support or they don’t have the mentoring, they don’t see themselves as being a scientist,” Crowder said.

WKU partnered with Ogden and SKyTeach to host Girls in Science Day this month. The event provided interactive sessions and interaction with women in STEM professions to grade-school girls to become involved with science first hand.

“We [need] to open the doors for opportunities for them to do hands-on activities to realize that yes, they can do these things, and yes, these things are fun and engaging,” Crowder said. “We have to make a conscious effort to make sure we put images out there — the positive imagery of women doing science — in front of young girls and young women growing up.”

Crowder also noted that women bring different experiences to groups that strengthen decision making, creativity and, ultimately, the scientific field.

“If women aren’t represented in numbers, then people think, ‘It’s too hard for them; it’s too geeky for them,’” Stevens said. “It’s not until we get enough women in leadership positions that, as women are coming up through the ranks, they say, ‘I can do that too.’”