Female RSOs represent university students
BY Senior Reporter
Women make up 50.8% of the U.S. population and earn between 57% and 59% of all undergraduate and graduate degrees, respectively. Despite the qualifications that many women hold, they account for less than a quarter of leadership positions in academia, corporations, and other hierarchies globally.
Several Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) on campus recognize the apparent disparity of women in professional leadership positions and are taking steps to solve the problem.
“Women are still largely underrepresented in leadership positions,” Kelsey Lona, the president of the Women In Business RSO, said.
The success of female-owned businesses has drastically increased in recent years. It has outpaced the overall increase in all new businesses by 1.5%. As of 2017, however, women held only 15% of the board director seats around the world.
Women in Business is currently the largest and most active professional RSO on campus. It introduces students to networking and professional opportunities by hosting events with major firms. The goal of such activities is to prepare students to become productive members of the workforce.
“I think that the percentage of women is increasing, but I think the underrepresentation can be attributed to the fact that there are so few women in leadership positions in the business field,” Lona said. “It can be intimidating to enter a field where most of the leadership positions are taken by men.”
Lona’s sentiments are echoed by Nisha Raman, a chemical engineering major and the president-elect of Alpha Omega Epsilon, a women-only professional sorority for STEM majors.
“A lot of our professors are males, so it’s hard to see ourselves in that position of knowing what we’re talking and feeling confident in what we’re talking about without having a role model there,” Raman said.
This seeming lack of female role models is not due to a lack of capability or interest. Discouragement of women from entering the STEM field is a persistent problem in the workforce. In fact, 44 percent of a group of minority female chemists and chemical engineers cited their college professors to be most responsible for this discouragement. Additionally, socially pervasive stereotypes play a role into this discouragement, The second leading cause of lack of female representation, cited by the same sample group, is the persistent stereotype that STEM careers aren’t meant for women or minorities.
“In CHEG112, which is an intro to chemical engineering class, I remember looking around the room and there was probably 120 people in there and a good portion of them were girls,” Raman said. “As we moved up from classes, like going from intro to chem-e, thermo-one, thermo-two and fluids, you start the see the retention rate for females, and I can only speak for my major from what I’ve seen, but the retention rate is pretty low for females.”
Much of this can be attributed to that fact that females are discouraged from pursuing STEM careers. In fact, 40 percent of female chemists and chemical engineers have stated that they were advised against pursuing a career in STEM. Furthermore, 60 percent of these women site the American education system to be where this discouragement happens.
Alyssa Rosenblum is an English major and recording secretary for Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity, a largely female group that promotes music, service and scholarship. She recalls a mentor who was discouraged from entering the field of music education yet would do so anyway.
“She had a supervisor that was adamant that women should teach general music, there was not a place for women teachers at the high school level,” Rosenblum said. “They should just work with little kids.”
These RSOs aim to give female professionals at the university a place of solace, networking and friendship.
“The major part that I’ve gotten out of it is meeting like-minded girls who were motivated and they’re going through similar experiences as you are,” Raman said. “So it provides that comfort of knowing that you’re not the only one.”