LSU Hosted Women in Technology Careers Forum to Encourage Young Women to Enter into STEM Careers
BATON ROUGE – According to a recent Forbes article, titled “Here’s the Real Reason there are not More Women in Technology”, there is a huge disparity between participation by men and women in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields. Often, STEM-related fields are thought of by many as a type of work mainly suited for men.
While women make up 48 percent of the workforce according to the United States Department of Commerce, they comprise less than a quarter of all employment in STEM-related jobs. While a study by the Association for Women in Science pointed out that there are barriers to women entering tech fields – the fact that even women interviewers chose to hire men over women, by significant margins, even with the identical qualifications – many barriers exist even before the job interview.
Women are not always encouraged in childhood or in high school to enter technical careers. Often there is a trigger or “discovery” along the way for young women that prompt their interest. Families, schools and peers need to encourage these young women to follow that trigger and to overcome any barriers they face.
On Thursday, Sept. 20, this important topic was front-and-center in the Student Union as LSU Information Technology Services, LSU Career Services, NetApp and Advanced Systems Group hosted the Women in Technology Careers Forum with more than 150 local high school students from East Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes. Students, teachers, counselors, and LSU students and staff listened to a panel discussion with eight highly successful women in STEM-related careers, including Julia Y. Chan, LSU chemistry professor; Mary Manheim, LSU geography and anthropology professor and director of the Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services, or FACES Lab; Joni Catanzaro, LSU ISDS faculty and IT Residential College rector; Regina Kunkle, NETAPP vice president of state and local government; Jackie Connors, IT deputy director for the state of Louisiana in the Division of Administration; Kappie Mumphrey, senior project manager at the Shaw Group; Vickie Wilson, Advanced Systems Group vice president; and Czarina Walker, founder and CEO of InfiniEDGE Software.
Katrice Albert, vice provost for Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach at LSU, addressed the attendees at an educational leadership reception for high school and college leadership prior to the WITC Forum. She discussed the problem of under-representation of women in the STEM fields. She noted that the solutions are as varied as the problems. Schools and universities must begin by recognizing this as a problem and having discussions, including holding events like the Women in Technology Careers Forum at LSU.
Mary Feduccia, director of LSU Career Services, opened the forum by encouraging each young woman to explore their interests in technology and to use the resources available to them at LSU, such as internships, student jobs and the Career Center. Students were able to engage with the WITC panelists and many other highly successful women in technology careers at LSU. Students and staff alike discussed the many rewards of a technology career, the myriad of job opportunities this would offer young women and were encouraged to “focus on what they love and to find mentors and supporters along the way, to work hard and keep focused on their goals.”
Kunkle also spoke about her desire for women everywhere to be empowered to reach for a career in the technology industry – not yielding to the perception that women cannot advance or do well in predominantly male dominated fields, such as engineering. Panelists discussed the varied paths they took to get to this point in their technology careers, and discussed aligning oneself with role models and supportive and encouraging peers and family.
Students interacted with Mary Manheim, LSU’s “Bone Lady,” while the FACES Lab demonstrated the models used to technically recreate a human likeness. Information Technology Services demonstrated the Visualization Center computer renderings. Career Services was present to encourage young women to create a career plan. LSU First Year Experience, the Admissions Office and several colleges were also on hand to entice young women to experience LSU.