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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Activities & Organizations

STEM event to discuss shortage of women, minorities in field


The UH math department is seeking to expand the demographics in STEM fields by hosting a conversation on the lack of women and minorities in the fields at 4 p.m. Thursday in the SEC building, Room 100.

Cara Santa Maria, a science communicator, writer and host of the “Talk Nerdy” science podcast, will lead a Q&A on her career path as well as a discussion of the issues within the STEM fields because of a lack of female and minority influence and an identification of possible solutions.

Associate professor of mathematics Mark Tomforde has spent time planning the event because of its importance in his field.

“I engage in a lot of different outreach activities, such as the Math Alliance, which tries to promote members in underrepresented groups to pursue graduate degrees in mathematics,” said Tomforde. “Events like this help to get the conversation flowing and open up ideas for students.”

The conversation comes at a crucial time in STEM field development. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women earned 57.3 percent of bachelor’s degrees in all fields in 2011 and 50.4 percent of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees. However, female participation in science and engineering at the undergraduate level significantly lessens in certain fields of study.

Although women receive over half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences, they receive far less in the computer sciences (18.2 percent), engineering (19.2 percent), physics (19.1 percent), and mathematics and statistics (43.1 percent) according to the National Science Foundation.

“The University hasn’t done anything to solve the issue,” said Tomforde. “Women and minorities are still vastly underrepresented, and there’s still a long way to go.”

Tomforde said he feels it’s critical for the University to address the issue and that the upcoming talk will be a good place to start. For STEM fields to maintain their vitality, he said there needs to be more diversity in order to solve problems and make contributions.

“There are a vast number of women and minorities that aren’t going through the STEM coursework, Tomforde said. “We’re losing talent.”

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