Navigating STEM programs as a woman can bring challenges, students say

Many female BW students report taking classes in which the gender balance skews heavily male

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is a field that has a reputation for being largely dominated by men, and some students feel that reputation is upheld at Baldwin Wallace.  

Students interviewed by The Exponent about their experience reported that in many STEM classes, the male-to-female student ratio is very unbalanced.   

Mary Hiros, a sophomore double major in cyber security and public health, said that, in one instance, she was the only female student in a class of seven males. Still, Hiros is undeterred.  

“Young women should not be scared to go into male-dominated fields, because there is so much room for success for women in these fields,” said Hiros.   

Junior Julia Stein, a double major in biology and public health, said that there are classes designed for specific post-graduate endeavors, such as medical school, that are more male-dominated in numbers than others. Classes that focus on topics such as physician’s assistance are more balanced in terms of numbers.   

These male-dominated numbers can be a daunting prospect for some female students hoping for a place in the S.T.E.M. world. Sydney Baracz, a junior English major and computer science minor, agreed that computer science being a male-dominated field was intimidating at first.   

“I was too self-conscious to pick the computer science electives since I knew the majority of the people in there would be boys,” Baracz said.   

Baracz also added that there was an issue with group work and being spoken over by their male counterparts. While Stein, Baracaz, and Hiros all agreed that the issue of sexism and misogyny was far more blatant and prevalent in high school, all three were aware of and prepared to deal with the same sort of issue in their college courses.  

Compared to other major-related courses, such as English, Baracz said they found it “baffling how much more of a problem [sexism] is in computer science.”   

While not everyone has run into the same sort of issue, Stein said she had experienced sexist microaggressions.   

“When I was a freshman I think there were a couple instances where we’d be studying, and I’d be with a male study partner, and people would ask him questions more than me,” Stein said.   

Many students, however, agree that there is plenty of room and opportunity for women in their desired field – it is just about navigating their way through and recognizing opportunities where they are offered.  

While there have clearly been instances of unkind behavior, Stein said that “there are also a lot of men that are extremely supportive.”  

The male students domination in terms of numbers should not be a deterrent from pursuing a career in the STEM field for women, Stein said.   

“We need women from all different backgrounds with all different perspectives to bring in new views and ideas,” she said.