Wonder to Us All: Women and the Under-represented in STEM

This article was created by a Technology Services student employee. Our student employees attend, engage, and report on campus events that feature technology. Students provide a unique perspective on how innovations in technology affect campus life.

By Meghan McCoy, English, '18

Ever since I saw last year’s hit movie Wonder Woman, I find myself re-watching a particular scene whenever I need inspiration. I promise that there are no spoilers ahead.

Just as Wonder Woman confidently tackles the obstacles in front of her, there are some organizations devoted to moving women beyond historical roles and empowering them in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), despite a history of under-representation in the field.

Wonder Women Tech

Founded in 2014 by speaker and author Lisa Mae Brunson, Wonder Woman Tech is a global conference platform that strives to “highlight, celebrate and educate women and the underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) industries,” according to its website.

In pursuit of this goal, the group hosts events, conferences and workshops that explore ideas, encourage discussions and propose solutions for women and the underrepresented to help them succeed and thrive in STEAM.

Most recently, Wonder Women Tech’s global summit in Washington, D.C. offered sessions about diversity, inclusion, and policy. Speakers from organizations such as the National Women’s Business Council, U.S. Department of State and Black Girls Code voiced their experiences and shared why diversity in the STEAM fields is vitally important.

Local STEAM and STEM Support for Women

As one of the top engineering and science universities in the country, Illinois unsurprisingly also has its own groups that promote women’s involvement in the sciences. And despite some variation, both groups help women in STEM feel connected to their classmates and departments, more empowered in innovation and properly equipped to succeed in their respective studies.

For current or prospective female students interested in joining an academic, social or housing network, Women in Engineering WIE and Women in Math, Science and Engineering WIMSE offer opportunities to be a part of all three of those options, or to simply focus on the area each student feels most interested in.

Women in Engineering (WIE)

WIE is a network specifically for female Engineering students, while WIMSE provides support in University housing for female undergraduates in a science, math or engineering curriculum.

WIE, which provides both academic support and social networks, has seen its membership increase by 25% in the past few years, according to their informational page. Female engineering students can take part in a two-day orientation program at the beginning of each fall semester, join the WIE Leadership program to practice building their individual strengths, or take mentoring classes to help establish a community and explore various resources.

Women in Math, Science and Engineering (WIMSE)

Since its beginning in 1996, more than 3,000 students have been a part of WIMSE, with approximately 50% coming from the liberal arts and sciences and about 40% engineering. These numbers showcase not just the rising admission of female students in science-based programs, but also help provide an understanding of how these organizations facilitate growth in their departments and student involvement in, and beyond their major.

Women in WIMSE, which is housed in the Florida Avenue Residence Hall, similarly have access to a variety of academic and co-curricular opportunities. These include area-specific tutoring, early move in and annual trips to science-based museums in Chicago. Yet no matter what a student decides to participate in, the space is there for students to expand their connections and voice their own thoughts about what they would like to see change and improve in the STEM fields on campus.

What these organizations, and countless others like them continue to show, is that when unrestricted, encouraged, welcomed and driven, women and underrepresented groups often take the standard narrative and completely reshape it. This allows for increased participation and compassionate learning across class, race, gender and background.

Going forward, my hope is that organizations like Wonder Women Tech, WIE and WIMSE continue to provide platforms and opportunities for people to express their views, ideas, concerns and everything in between. If so, I can easily imagine a present and future where the next Wonder Woman story is found in the person standing right next to us.

To learn more about Wonder Women Tech, WIE or WIMSE, please visit the links below. Wonder Women Tech: https://wonderwomentech.com/

Women in Engineering: http://wie.engineering.illinois.edu/

Women in Math, Science and Engineering: http://housing.illinois.edu/living-options/living-learning-communities/wimse

The above article is the first installment in a series about events, people or organizations that are promoting or involved in the STEM fields in interesting, supportive or innovative ways.