Womyn of Color in STEM
by Marzia Rahman
The NJIT chapter of Lambda Tau Omega Sorority, Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE) and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) all cohosted the “Womyn of Color in Stem” event last Wednesday, November 23rd in the Campus Center Ballroom. The event exhibited numerous successful and inspiring female NJIT alumni who had a lot of wisdom and advice to share for current female NJIT students.
This event aimed to provide a safe and open space for discussion about the racial and gender stereotypes in the workplace and in STEM that women of color face and to share and obtain real life advice and experiences from experienced women of color currently working in STEM fields.
According to “Barriers for Women of Color in Science” written by Science Insider writer Rachel Bernstein on February 23, 2015 in Science Career Magazine (part of the journal Science), women of color in the workplace, particularly in science careers face discrimination and gender bias. Bernstein reports that a study conducted in January reveals that women of color who assert themselves are often viewed as “unlikable”, “too angry” and some face backlash for acting “too masculine”.
Programming chair, sister of Lambda Tau Omega and member of SHPE and SWE Diana Hernandez, fifth year industrial engineering major said, “The objective of this event was to a have an open discussion. To hear the experiences of women who already been through college and more than five years in their [respective] industries. So they can tell us about how to overcome the stereotypes of being a woman of color in STEM.”
The event hosted three panel speakers all of whom who are NJIT alumni and majored in Industrial Engineering: Alicia Correa, Tiffany McKoy and Crystal Mitchell. Ms. Correa and Ms. McKoy both have a degree in Industrial Engineering while Ms. Mitchel has a degree in Industrial Engineering as well as master’s degree in both math education and education administration.
At the start of the event, audience members were instructed to respond to the following prompt on a slip of paper: “Ruchika Tulshyna said, ‘Women of Color have a double hurdle of not being too aggressive and proving that we are intelligent enough.’ Have you experienced any stereotypes like this in a professional setting?”
The slips of paper were collected in a box and after the panel members shared a specific instance in which they faced being stereotyped or discriminated against, they addressed the questions/concerns on the slips of paper.
One question that was raised was how to react to a colleague who claimed that the only reason a person got a job in the first place was only due to the fact that the person was female.
Ms. McKoy responded:
“Stereotypes inherently have the factor of making you think twice, allowing you to second guess what you already know. Stereotypes like women are only being hired because of their gender and minority women because of their ethnicity is also a reality because the positive part of it is that the world is starting to acknowledge that women are needed in STEM. That’s a positive thing. The positive thing is that we are coming into the field more than we did ten years ago…the negative part is that there aren’t enough…because of this, companies have quotas to fill. The fact is, they might have hired you, not because of the fact you are a woman, but in addition to them needing employees and them needing to fill a quota for women and minority women. However you got your job, you got your job! The fact of the matter is that you have your job and now that you [it], you pursue the opportunity to the fullest extent, every instance, to distinguish yourself positively in that [position]…Whether they hire you because you’re a woman or not, you make sure that when you leave that internship, they never forget your name and [that] they’re looking to hire you when you’re done.”
Other topics such as racism, racial profiling, privilege, discrimination, confidence, motivation and the representation of women were discussed.
Crystal Gould, a senior industrial engineering major, said, “I like the fact that it was so inspiring as a Black woman hearing about all these women that are already in the industry and seeing how much NJIT has grown and how much the women here have done great things and them just encouraging us to keep on pushing forward, to make that door a little more wider for the next person. This event was just really inspiring.”
Women’s Stem Article Notes:
Fourth Year Electrical Engineering
“The purpose of this event, Women of Color in Stem, is basically to hear our alumni, their experiences, their advice regarding their fields. For example like myself, as an engineer, I am very hesitant about going to work in fields that are male dominated as a minority. And my alumni, alicia, who are telling us: Don’t worry about it. It is hard out there but you can do this.
-going into the workforce, its a little hard as a woman, as a Latina, as a minority, in a male dominated field. And i feel like its so helpful to open this up to the rest of njit. Having them share their experiences, thier advice-to help us in our careers, tell them to be confident and to not anybody push them because for being a woman and a minority i just hope that those who attended were able to get some kind of confidence, some kind of insight…President of Lambda Tau Omega.
Double Majoring in Business Information Systems and Science Technology and Society
“This event is called Womyn of Color in STEM. And womyn is spelled with a Y on purpose. It represents that we don’t need men in our lives to succeed.”
“This event has been put together by Lambda Tau Omega, a sorority incorporated, of which I am a proud sister of and also cohosting with SWE and SHEP which is a Society of Women Engineers and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, which I am also a member of both.
“Our sorority has been on campus since 1989, we are the only multicultural sorority on campus meaning that we accept women of all colors and shapes. Our philanthropic focus is the welfare of children but this chapter we focus a lot on women empowerment and women independence. This is one of our events, this actually is the first time we did this even on campus. But we do a lot of events toward women empowerment such as the elimination of domestic violence, we also a do self defense and love your body events.
I’ve been a member of SHPE since in my freshman year to actually they served us to help me develop my professional skills. Great organization where I met a lot of my friends.
SWE- thanks to SWE, i got my internship at IBM and now my fulltime job at IBM because I attended the national conference last year. They’re also a support group for women.
“The objective of this event was to a have an open discussion. To hear the experiences of women who already been through college and more than five years in thier industries. So they can tell us about how to overcome the stereotypes of being a woman of color in STEM.
Alicia- I came to NJIT, i graduated in industrial engineering in 2005 then did a masters in 2008 in engineering management. I work for the army now i work for the production of propellant manufacturing.
-We get a taste of the real world by the things that we learn here. You really don’t get to know exactly what its like unless you work or intern. But you get a general idea of what it is and I think especially industrial engineering which was i took, they did a really good job in terms of teaching us what’s out there in industrial engineering. Part of the sorority. I think it’s good to get a real life experience from other women that are out there. I think that sometimes we need a little encouragement especially the girls that have heard what its like, withe internship, . The reality is that…we are going to be stereotyped, still going to be discriminated against, and even after we’ve been working, as we come our way to the top, there’s always going to be someone a little bit of “you don’t deserve it” but I think it has to do with listening to other women that have experienced it as well and knowing that you can do it too, self assurance.
all three: industrial engineering
I like the fact that it was so