Future of the University

I am a strong advocate for women and their roles in STEM. Before taking the Preparing for the Future Professoriate class this spring I did not know that in any given year since 1982 there are more women getting their undergraduate degrees than men in the United States. This is because in India this is never the case and all the exposure I had was the Indian educational system. I was accustomed to being in classrooms where women made up only one-forths or one-fifths the class strength and in some rare cases a little less than 50% of the class.

With the awe that women were doing much better in the United States than in India. I was dreaming of the day when India will reach such numbers. All these dreams were shattered when I looked at the enrollment numbers at Virginia Tech. There are about 77 female students for every 100 male students at Virginia Tech and the main reason for this is that the University is majorly an engineering school.

Why is it that women do not think Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are fields that they can pursue with an equal standing as men? Is it because the society tells these young women “STEM subjects are not what your mind can take in and comprehend so please do a subject that is not STEM”?

Is there a way to correct such stereotypes in the society? One of the solutions I can think of and I believe Virginia Tech is already doing is promoting science at elementary school level. Also, Hiring more women faculty can also help female students who join the Univesity have role models and mentors, encouraging them to pursue their careers in STEM fields.

6 thoughts on “Future of the University

  1. I believe that it can be intimidating for females to be in large classrooms only encompassed with males. It may not bother some, however it does in a way bring attention to them whether it is wanted or unwanted. They sort of stand out. In my opinion, the United States is doing a better job of increasing enrollment for women in STEM fields, however, the support often stops there. Some of the barriers actually arise in the classroom setting and during the degree itself. There should be more resources related directly towards the time when females are actually enrolled in these types of courses.

    1. I had once attended an 4000-level physics class of about 15 students at VT, where I was the only female student. That moment it struck me that even back home in India there might have been more female students sitting in a physics than what I experienced that day. I did not enroll to that class because I knew most of the topics, but now it makes me wonder if there was even a single female student who took the class.

  2. Great post with some very interesting points! I absolutely agree that women in STEM programs are generally underrepresented. I think the two solutions you provided would be a great start at encouraging women to get involved in the STEM fields. During my undergraduate term here at Virginia Tech, I was the president of Concrete for Kids, a community outreach program that visited local elementary schools in the Blacksburg community and taught the students about STEM, primarily the STEM disciplines associated with construction and concrete. I think this is one of the best ways to present both boys and girls at the elementary schools a general background of STEM and encourages the idea that the field is meant for anyone, regardless of gender.

    1. There is another program that runs every Spring called the Kids Tech University (KTU) that Virginia Tech is a part of where students experience an interactive session followed by a hands-on activity and a virtual lab. I volunteered for one of the events and this made me wish I had this while growing up.

  3. I understand your concern. In any field, it is important to have gender parity. In addition to what you mentioned, even when women pursue STEM fields, they have less chances of getting the same job as men, let alone being paid the same.

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