Her Campus American Presents: The Women in STEM Panel

Her Campus American hosted its first panel of the year, Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), on Monday night. The event explored the STEM backgrounds of three professors at American University and addressed the gender disparity in the STEM field plus how women can get involved in these fields. Panelists included Alexandra Kapatou, a mathematics and statistics professor, Michele Lansigan, a chemistry professor, and Maria Barouti, also a mathematics and statistics professor. All women come from diverse backgrounds but share the similar experiences as women in STEM.

American University has a predominately female campus. However, as a strong social science institution, the university has a small, yet growing STEM presence. Women and men are not equally represented in STEM fields; men tend to dominate these fields. According to a study by the United States Census Bureau, only 26% of women are working in STEM fields. This event discussed both the realization of this gender disparity and the obstacles that women face while attending STEM classes in college among a majority of male classmates.

“Although everyone was polite, I felt as though I wasn’t part of the inner circle,” said panelist Kapatou about the bonds between her male peers that she was unable to relate to and struggled with. Dr. Lansigan also struggled with the balance of her career and starting a family. However, she assured that the balance is worth her happiness with her profession."It's not just about your career, it's about being sane and happy," Lansigan explained.  Despite the obstacles faced by women in the field, the panelists emphasized the importance of going against the status quo and getting involved with STEM on campus. Girls can get involved as early as high school by starting STEM courses to get comfortable with the field. The panelists discussed the importance of interacting with STEM professors, trying new STEM-related courses that seem interesting, and to not to be afraid of getting involved in these fields.

Our panelists agreed that some women are raised thinking that they won’t be a good fit in STEM fields. “If you like anything, talk to the people who can understand you and guide you. Don’t hesitate,” said Barouti. Our panelists also reminded us that there are many scholarships and internships reserved for female students help them to get a leg up in the STEM field they are interested in.

Her Campus American would like to thank everyone who attended the event as well as Spoon AU for co-sponsoring the event. Thank you to Jetties Sandwiches for the delicious dinner.


All photos belong to Her Campus American.