Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi was honored as one of the leading women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) this past Tuesday at the 2012 California STEM Summit in San Diego.
The STEM summit is a gathering of educators, innovators and leaders from all areas of the STEM field who come together to change the way STEM is taught in schools and to highlight progress that is already being made.
“I was very honored. I’ve worked hard to improve the participation of women in the STEM field,” Katehi said.
Katehi was one of 12 women who received the Leading Women in STEM award, and she was specifically recognized for the adoption of next-generation science standards.
“Women have made some tremendous contributions in the field, and it is important that we recognize them,” said Chris Roe, CEO of the California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet). “Women are also underrepresented in the STEM field so it is important to highlight them so they can serve as role models.”
Women today hold only 25 percent of the STEM jobs in the U.S.
“I believe we can change those numbers,” Katehi said.
Katehi stressed the fact that if more women are going to be involved in careers such as engineering, their STEM education has to start early.
“Girls make a decision about what they want to do in middle school; that’s where we have to inform them,” Katehi said. “We have to make them believe that they can make it.”
Katehi, who trained as an electrical engineer, has since been a part of many national organizations involving science, engineering and education, and said she faced challenges in her career because she is a woman. But the advancement of women in the STEM field is encouraging to the next generation.
“I feel like women in the STEM field are representing themselves more. People trying to bring us down don’t really have a leg to stand on,” said first-year animal science major Bryana Ramirez.
Katehi said that attitude toward women in the STEM field has come a long way since she was a university student.
“The glass ceiling is still there, but change is happening,” Katehi said. “We work against some stereotypes. My hope is that as we have more and more women in engineering, those stereotypes will change.”
Katehi recently received a nearly 4 million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation for a program that will increase female — particularly Hispanic female — participation in STEM.
“We want to improve the number of Latina faculty in the STEM field because we have very, very few of them in a time when we have a growing Latina undergraduate and graduate population,” she said.
CSLNet and their partners are working to provide women and all California students with high-quality STEM-learning experiences.
“We are providing students with the opportunity to learn about what STEM is through after-school programs across California,” Roe said. “A number of our partners across the state have programs that are specifically designed at targeting young girls and getting them interested in the STEM field.”
LAUREN MASCARENHAS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.