Woman of the Week: Sarah Wessinger

(Disclaimer: This article is specifically written, by request, to focus on the statistical aspect).

Science has always been a huge part of who I am, especially marine life. However, the topic of inclusivity, gender bias treatment, and the demographic disadvantage for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is rarely talked about in our multitude of generations. It’s rare to hear a male complain about issues in these work fields. 

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, the statistics show that women remain underrepresented in the science workforce. These statistics show that women only make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 28% of the science and engineering workforce.” Female scientists and engineers are focused in different occupations than are men, with relatively high shares of women in the social sciences (60%) and biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences (48%) and relatively low shares in engineering (15%) and computer and mathematical sciences (26%).” https://ngcproject.org/statistics  

 I think it’s extremely important to understand every aspect; not only is there a level of inequality of representation for women in the workplace but also, a wage gap difference. In 2013, the United States Census Bureau calculated that, “men with a bachelor's degree in science or engineering and employed full-time, year-round in STEM occupations earned $91,000, compared with women who earned $75,100 on average.https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2013/cb13-162.html 

In a 2017 update, “on average, men earn $37.69 and women earn $31.59 per hour.” For every dollar earned by a man in STEM, a woman in STEM earns 84 cents, a gender wage gap of 16 percent.” With this information in mind, even though women are shown to be more involved in the field, the inequality still stands. https://www.spglobal.com/_media/documents/women-in-stem-2017-update.pdf 

 

A recent conversation with a close friend sparked my interest in writing this article.  

Sarah Wessinger, a senior here at CCU in the marine science department, is currently working in the Environmental Fluids lab on campus, her focus is in radar research and has received the Women in STEM Fellowship. She is extremely intelligent, and very passionate about this topic which is why I immediately chose to interview her; so, here’s what she had to say regarding Women in STEM. 

What are some challenges you encounter in this field? How does that affect you? 

Sarah: The project I am working on is male dominated. I’m also the youngest working on the project so sometimes my work can be overlooked. Women have grown up being told to ‘be soft with their opinions’. It’s a learning adjustment having to be assertive in this field, especially being a woman.  

CCU takes pride in being an “all inclusive, non-discriminate" university, however you’re noticing a trend of representation of women in the STEM areas, do you think Coastal could do more to improve this? 

Sarah: All the upper-level math classes I’ve taken have been male dominated. Coastal should do more in encouraging women to sign up for these challenging courses.  

Finally, why is the awareness about the demographic disadvantage for women in STEM important? 

Sarah: Women are equally as smart and talented, there is an untapped potential yet to be achieved. Also, if women were equally represented, the progression would be more efficient in the labs, in the research, and in communication.