Encouraging and supporting women in the sciences is club’s goal

Founded to encourage and support women who are interested in science, technology, engineering and math majors and careers, the Women in STEM club entered their second year of existence this semester.

The club originally came together in the spring of 2014 thanks to a few generous sponsors who donated money for the club to make t-shirts, posters, pens and business cards, said the club Vice President Stephanie Lue. Since the club’s inception, members have held their own fundraisers such as Health Day at Valley High School.

Math professor Lora Stewart said she was convinced to sponsor Women in STEM by former student Phoung Thao.

“She came and twisted my arm kind of,” Stewart said. “Phoung was very interested in getting it started. I couldn’t turn her down.”

While Phoung helped in the formation of the club, it has continued after her departure.

“Unfortunately Phoung transferred. She was a real go-getter and got everybody doing things and then we just tried to continue with Stephanie and Karina, the president, trying to do what the members want to do,” Stewart said.

Stewart said Women in STEM is important because women in fields that relate to STEM are underrepresented.

“When I was little I used to hate math but now I realize math comes in handy with more than expected like grocery shopping or banking accounts,” Lue said.

Members said the club meetings give them an opportunity to hang out and discuss different strategies for studying, tests, scholarship information and careers in the field. While the club is focused on the support of women in the field, the doors are open to everyone.

“It’s open to males and females but the emphasis is to help women,” Stewart said. “Things have gotten better in that regard but they’re not equal.”

The openness of membership even goes beyond gender Lue said.

“You don’t have to be a STEM major, everyone is welcome to come and hang out,” Lue said.

On March 14, also know as Pi Day, the club held a rotary event with nine middle schools participating.

“It’s sort of like a celebration with math,” Lue said. “Most people would think math is just numbers but math is a language that can be used in other ways.”

Members said the club is a small community but also an important club because it helps remind them they are not the only ones facing a tough battle with their major and that they constantly have support.

“It’s a good support group because you can get really frustrated in math and science,” Stewart said. “It’s easy to give up and just say I’ll switch my major to something else.”

Majoring in the STEM fields can be challenging in more ways than just learning the material.

“When you apply to universities they look at what classes you’ve taken and your letter grade, [but] they don’t always see how hard we work,” Lue said.

While the path before them might be tough, the women of STEM have a sense of humor despite their challenging majors.

“I have a funny chemistry joke,” Lue said. “So Fe in chemistry represents iron, and f-e are the first letters in female. So its like iron-male or ironman.”