Murray State gets grant for women in STEM research

You teach your children that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up. But, numbers show your daughters might be at a disadvantage. This is especially true in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM.

A grant from the National Science Foundation of $250,000 was awarded to Murray State University to research recruitment, retention, and advancement of women faculty in STEM fields in west Kentucky.

Right now, 21 percent of STEM faculty at Murray State are women. Altogether, women make up 41 percent of the school’s faculty.

As a math professor at Murray State since 1998, Dr. Maeve McCarthy knows numbers. She doesn’t know why the number of men in STEM outweighs the number of women to such a degree.

“Women can do science just as well as anyone else,” McCarthy said. She’s leading a study to find out what can be done to get more female faculty on campus and ultimately more women students in her math class. “The more role models you have, the more people can identify with them," she said.

Jessica Lugo, a junior math major/engineering minor, knows she’s outnumbered but doesn’t let that get her down.

Women with STEM degrees make 33 percent more than those without.

Lugo plans to get a master’s degree and maybe a PhD in math. She says her key to success was support from her mother to do whatever she wanted later in life and to think at an early age. “She always encouraged me to build things, play with Legos,” Lugo said.

That’s how McCarthy says it starts. She says an interest in STEM or doubting your abilities starts at a young age. “My daughters are already hearing, at the ages of 6 and 8, they’re already hearing that women can’t do science,” McCarthy said.

She’s hoping for more opportunities for women on rural campuses. At the end of this study, which includes surveys and workshops, McCarthy will present potential changes to Murray State and hopes other rural colleges will follow suite.

A CNN article from 2014 shows how experts believe you can better prepare your daughters for a career in STEM. To see it, click here

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