Achieving Diversity and Inclusion in College STEM
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young girl students building robotics on desk

In the early 2000s, U.S. colleges and universities began opening offices of diversity through which they frequently appointed a single officer to field student, faculty, and staff complaints and to expand culturally narrow curricula. But with new pressure on schools to support underrepresented students, the single-desk model of administering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts is on its way out.

Colleges leading the DEI charge, including the University of Michigan, place a DEI officer inside every academic program. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs — growing each year in prestige, popularity, and potential income for graduates — are forerunners in this effort, but continue to face some of the toughest DEI challenges.

While colleges have diversified rapidly in terms of race and gender, STEM programs continue to graduate more white students than Black and brown students. Asian students, meanwhile, are overrepresented in STEM: One-third of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Asian students in 2015-16 were in STEM fields — that’s almost double the total percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded in STEM that year.

Studies show slow or stagnant growth in the number of STEM degrees awarded to both students of color and female students. Between race and gender in STEM diversity, it’s gender that lags more: The difference between the number of STEM degrees awarded to male students (64%) and female students (36%) eclipses any difference among racial groups.

“Cultural change often does not happen quickly, and is not the kind of thing that we in science, in engineering, are used to measuring.”. Source: — Dr. Joyce Yen, Director of the University of Washington ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change

Female minority students are even more drastically underrepresented in STEM. White men earn bachelor’s degrees in engineering at six times the rate of white and nonwhite Hispanic women and over 11 times the rate of Black women. (Effectively all STEM education data is gender binary — another DEI shortcoming.)

Last year brought new urgency to colleges’ DEI efforts. Dr. Joyce Yen, director of the University of Washington’s ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change, says that intensity is productive and that a problem-solving mindset is particularly endemic to STEM; however, urgency is somewhat at odds with the slow-going nature of cultural change.

“This is not work that is going to change overnight,” said Yen in an interview with BestColleges. “Cultural change often does not happen quickly, and is not the kind of thing that we in science, in engineering, are used to measuring.”

Without cultural change, underrepresented students and their faculty mentors could continue to exit STEM fields. Dr. Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, earth sciences professor at the University of California, Merced, told BestColleges that higher education must “ensure that the folks from minoritized communities who are recruited to colleges are going to be part of supportive work environments.”

Lack of Diversity in STEM at Root of Pay Gap

Over 20% of U.S. adults aged 25 or older hold a bachelor’s degree, and nearly 10% hold a master’s degree. The American Council on Education found that among Black, Hispanic or Latino/a, and American Indian or Alaska Native students, the share of adults with either degree drops by 5 or more percentage points.

Educators first began paying attention to unequal education opportunities in the late 1990s. Since that time, Black students have closed the high school graduation gap, and both Black and brown students are attending college in greater numbers than ever before. Just two decades ago, students of color comprised less than 30% of the total undergraduate population; now, they make up more than 45%.

Getting to college is one challenge — getting through it is another. Black and brown students are more likely to be first-generation college students, facing the hard work and red tape of higher education on their own. They’re also more likely to take out big loans and be defrauded by for-profit universities, which charge more for degrees that hold less value on the job market.

Underrepresented students face steep costs and steep challenges to higher education. Colleges work to enroll students of diverse identities and experiences, but many of these recruits struggle without family, financial, and academic support. They also lack representation among faculty, with few or no professors from similar backgrounds whom they can look to as mentors.

Colleges work to enroll students of diverse identities and experiences, but many of these recruits struggle without family, financial, and academic support.

Though similar percentages of white, nonwhite Latino/a, and Black students declare STEM majors at the start of their studies, nearly 4 in 10 nonwhite Latino/a and Black students end up switching their majors, compared to 29% of white students.

Furthermore, just half of Black and nonwhite Latino/a college students graduate within six years. Attrition is high among Black and nonwhite Latino/a STEM majors, with 26% of Black students and 20% of nonwhite Latino/a students dropping out. The time and money suck of an unfinished college degree can set students back for life.

STEM fields are notoriously nondiverse. For every year these lucrative fields fail to graduate more students of color, the racial pay gap splits open even wider. The same goes for the gender pay gap: The highest-earning STEM jobs employ the lowest percentage of women workers. This division in earning potential starts in college.

While retaining female students and students of color in STEM would be a major step toward achieving pay equity, successful graduates still face an uphill battle when it comes to monetizing their degrees. Women of color in STEM — doubly prejudiced against, first in education and then on the job market — earn about 60% of white men’s salary.
College STEM Programs Work Toward DEI Goals

By supporting underrepresented students in STEM, colleges can better follow through on their economic promises to enrollees. Closing racial and gender education pay gaps depend on closing STEM education gaps. But according to DEI experts, the ultimate payoff of centering DEI in STEM education includes more scientists of diverse backgrounds, more conscientious scientists, and the innovations borne of inclusivity.

“The questions that we ask now are actually weaker questions,” explained Yen, who noted that questions scientific during research and development often fail to look at the world through a DEI lens. Without that lens, key pieces of information are left out. The result? Problems like voice recognition software that can’t pick up higher-pitched female voices, and facial recognition software that fails to see darker-skinned faces.

“There was a time [when] voice recognition systems literally could not hear female voices. … You are both metaphorically and literally silenced.”. Source: — Dr. Joyce Yen, Director of the University of Washington ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change

Scientists and engineers occupy pivotal roles in either perpetuating or interrupting the inequalities embedded in the world around us. When STEM students are taught to see through a DEI lens, it changes which problems are addressed and how solutions are optimized to be truly inclusive.

A pioneering institution in DEI, the University of Michigan charged all 51 of its academic and administrative units to develop DEI plans. Each unit was then made to appoint its own diversity officer to serve as a “culture catalyst” and to “lead, coordinate, support, execute, and create structures of accountability.”

While U.S. institutions of higher education continue to struggle to create diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments, intentional efforts — such as those made by U-M — show promise.

Where Colleges’ DEI Intentions Fall Short

Thanks in part to colleges’ recruiting efforts, enrollment numbers indicate improvements in diversity. But the graduation gap, particularly among Black students who declared STEM majors, persists.

Diversity is only partially addressed when colleges focus on recruitment, rather than climate and retention. Berhe says DEI priorities must include “a reimagined mentoring structure” that allows multiple faculty members to support Black and brown students as they learn and face different challenges.

Read the complete article posted on Best Colleges.com

Airbnb’s Billionaire CEO Is Giving The Obama Foundation $100 Million For Travel-Focused College Scholarships
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Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky speaks onstage during “Introducing Trips” Reveal at Airbnb Open LA on November 17, 2016, in Los Angeles.

By Rachel Sandler, Forbes

Airbnb’s billionaire cofounder and CEO Brian Chesky is making his biggest philanthropic donation so far: a $100 million pledge to former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s charitable foundation for an initiative that links education and travel. The funds will go toward scholarships for college students pursuing careers in public service, according to an announcement from the Obama Foundation on Monday. The program, called the Voyager Scholarship, is intended to relieve students of college debt, enable them to travel and expand their horizons—and provide them with mentors.

The two-year program will provide students with up to $25,000 in financial aid for their junior and senior years of college. Recipients will also be given $10,000 and free Airbnb housing to go on a “summer voyage” where students will design their own work-travel program to “gain exposure to new communities.”

It doesn’t end there. For a decade after graduation, students will get $2,000 per year on Airbnb to travel where they wish and “forge new connections throughout their public service careers.” The first cohort of Voyager scholars will include 100 students.

“If we want this next generation of leaders to be able to do what they need to do, they have to meet each other. They have to know each other. They have to understand each other’s communities,” the former president says in a video announcing the scholarship.

Chesky, who Forbes estimates is worth $9 billion, will donate the $100 million for the Voyager Scholarship over a period of five years to the Obama Foundation, which will be in charge of the program.

The goal of the scholarship is to open the world to young leaders who would normally be too cash-strapped to travel. “There are young people across the country who have a passion for public service, but can’t pursue it because of their student loan debt. We want to help reduce that burden,” Chesky says in the video announcement.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Snapchat co-founder pays off college debt of new graduates at L.A. art and design school
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More than 200 graduates of Otis College of Arts and Design react to the surprise announcement Sunday that their college debts will be paid off by snapchat founder

By Teresa WatanabeRachel Uranga

Yaritza Velazquez-Medina took a chance on a major career turn when she decided to drop her work as a crisis counselor in 2018 to pursue her artistic passions. She enrolled at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles to become a graphic designer — even though she racked up about $70,000 in college debt to do so.

But after she crossed the stage Sunday to receive her diploma at commencement ceremonies, she and 284 other graduates in the Class of 2022 received stunning news: Their college debt would be completely paid off through the largest donation in the school’s century-old history by Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel and his wife, Miranda Kerr, who is founder of the beauty company Kora.

Charles Hirschhorn, Otis president, made the announcement during the commencement ceremony at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel, drawing gasps and cheers from the audience. Some graduates hugged, cried and jumped for joy.

“I’m speechless,” Velazquez-Medina said, tears streaming from her eyes.

Spiegel — whose creation of the popular instant messaging app with two former Stanford University classmates made him the world’s youngest billionaire in 2015 — took summer classes at Otis during high school.

“It changed my life and made me feel at home,” Spiegel told the graduating class. “I felt pushed and challenged to grow surrounded by super talented artists and designers, and we were all in it together.”

Spiegel and Kerr are founders of The Spiegel Family Fund. They said in a statement that the college is “an extraordinary institution that encourages young creatives to find their artistic voices and thrive in a variety of industries and careers.

“It is a privilege for our family to give back and support the Class of 2022, and we hope this gift will empower graduates to pursue their passions, contribute to the world, and inspire humanity for years to come.”

The donation comes as student loan debt has soared in the last few decades, driven by rising college costs and less public funding to cover them. More than 43 million Americans owe the federal government $1.6 trillion — an average $37,000 per person — making up the biggest share of consumer debt in the U.S. after mortgages.

In California alone, 3.8 million residents owe $141.8 billion, the largest share of any state. Those struggling most with crushing debt are disproportionately students who are low-income, underrepresented minorities and the first in their families to attend college.

The financial burden is harming mental health, delaying marriages, preventing home ownership and discouraging new businesses, researchers have found. The widespread effects are intensifying pressure on the Biden administration to craft a student debt relief plan; one proposal under consideration is federal forgiveness of at least $10,000 in debt for people making less than $125,000 a year.

The crisis has also prompted some donors to pay off student loan debt. In 2019, billionaire Robert Smith made national headlines when he announced he would cover the loan debt of the entire graduating class at Morehouse College by donating $34 million to the historically Black men’s school in Atlanta.

Hirschhorn did not disclose the size of the Spiegel family gift but said it surpassed the college’s previous largest gift of $10 million. Spiegel and Kerr offered their historic donation after Hirschhorn told them the college wanted to award the couple honorary degrees and invited them as commencement speakers this year. The couple was not available for an interview.

Click here to read the full article on Los Angeles Times.

A History of AAPI Representation in ‘Star Wars’
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STAR WARS, BRITISH RELEASE POSTER WITH AMERICAN STYLE C DESIGN, TOM WILLIAM CHANTRELL, 1977

By Keith Chow, The Nerds of Color

The month of May holds a special place in the hearts of Asian American and Pacific Islander Star Wars fans. For starters, May has been AAPI Heritage Month since 1990, though it originally began as “Asian Pacific Heritage Week” when it was proposed in Congress by Representatives Frank Horton and Norman Y. Mineta in 1977. That’s right, 1977. You know what else debuted in May 1977?

Before the last three Star Wars movies — Episodes VII and VIII, plus Rogue One — became staples of the Holiday Movie Season, every other film in the Saga was a May release. (This year, Lucasfilm finally returns to tradition when Solo: A Star Wars Story debuts in theaters on May 25). Also, “Star Wars Day” falls every May the Fourth, so naturally, May is Star Wars Month by default. So what better way to honor both AAPI Heritage Month and Star Wars then by going through the history of AAPI representation in the Galaxy Far, Far Away?

The Original Trilogy

The Hidden Fortress (1958)

It’s no secret that the filmography of Akira Kurosawa had a huge influence on George Lucas’ space opera. Kurosawa’s 1958 film The Hidden Fortress is perhaps the most obvious. Beyond the narrative echoes between the two stories, Lucas had intended to rhyme Star Wars and Hidden Fortress even more by casting the legendary Toshiro Mifune, one of Kurosawa’s frequent collaborators and the star of Hidden Fortress, as either Darth Vader or Obi-Wan Kenobi. Sadly, Mifune turned down the role, and it would be more than two decades before an Asian face would be seen in Star Wars — not counting Nien Nunb or Lieutenant Telsij (the first Asian actor to speak a line of dialogue in any Star Wars movie), of course.

Twenty years later, in the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi, Dalyn Chew became the first actor of Asian descent to have any significant screen time in a Star Wars movie. In an extended musical number inserted into Jedi, Chew plays Lyn Me, one of the backup dancers at Jabba’s Palace. Sure, she doesn’t really have any lines, but she did get more than four seconds of screen time and an action figure!

The Prequel Trilogy

When Lucas returned to the franchise in the late ’90s to tell the backstory of Darth Vader, he also forgot to cast AAPI actors in any significant roles. Aside from Dhruv Chanchani as Ani’s friend Kitsterthe only other Asian-coded characters in The Phantom Menace are the Neimoidians and Queen Amidala’s wardrobe. Speaking of Padme’s fetish for Oriental wear, perhaps the filmmakers were trying to make amends for the original queen’s fashion by casting actual Asian and Pacific Islander actresses like Ayesha Dharker and Keisha Castle-Hughes for subsequent Queens of Naboo?

Ayesha Dharker as Jamilia in Attack of the Clones (2002) & Keisha Castle-Hughes as Apailana in Revenge of the Sith (2005)

The prequel Attack of the Clones in 2002 was also responsible for the most significant AAPI casting decision to date. In addition to several blink-and-you’ll-miss-them AAPI Jedis, veteran Maori actor Temuera Morrison was chosen to play Jango Fett. Not only was Jango the most heavily marketed character of the prequel sequel, casting Morrison had ripple effects in terms of representation throughout the Saga.

Because Jango was the source for all of the Clone Troopers, that meant beloved characters like Captain Rex from the animated Clone Wars were also coded as Pacific Islander. More significantly, Daniel Logan was cast as the pre-pubescent Boba Fett, meaning the man underneath that iconic helmet from the Original Trilogy was also Maori. A point made even more clearly when Lucas had Morrison redub all of Boba Fett’s lines for all future digital and blu-ray releases of the trilogies and allowed Logan to reprise the role on Clone Wars.

Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett & Daniel Logan as Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones (2002)

The Force Awakens & Rogue One

In 2012, the Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm and the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas for just over $4 billion. This acquisition signaled a new era in the Star Wars franchise, promising a continuation of the Saga stories but also an interconnected universe of movies, television, comics, and everything in between. Production on the sequel trilogy — the long-promised Episodes VII through IX — began soon after when J.J. Abrams, the man who reinvigorated the moribund Star Trek movie franchise, was brought on to direct the first new Star Wars movie in a decade.

In the run-up to The Force Awakens, Abrams and the Lucasfilm brain trust were asked about Asian representation in the future of Star Wars during a Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con, to which the director famously responded, “Go Asians!”

When The Force Awakens finally premiered, the promise of more AAPI characters in Star Wars was realized… sort of. While TFA featured more AAPI actors than all previous six films combined, none of them could be considered major characters.

For instance, the buzz surrounding the announcement that stars from The Raid, the cult martial arts classic from Indonesia, was going to be in the film as the fearsome Kanjiklub was soon met with indifference once audiences figured out their screen time would be severely limited. Other actors like Ken Leung (as Admiral Statura) and Jessica Henwick (as Resistance pilot Jess Pava) wouldn’t fare much better since their scenes are also glorified cameos.

Ken Leung as Admiral Statura with Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa in The Force Awakens (2015)

Click here to read the full article on The Nerds of Color.

Looking at Environmental Protection Through the Lens of Disability
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By Alliah Czarielle, Hemophilia News Today

Climate change has been a hot topic in our circles lately. We feel it very much in the Philippines, where hot summers in the months of April and May have quickly turned into a season of strong typhoons and dangerous floods. Recently, a major typhoon hit the province of Leyte, causing a tragic landslide.

Individuals can only do so much to “save” our planet (and humanity) from the drastic effects of climate change. But we can make a difference by doing little things. We can boycott single-use plastics if we’re in a position to do so, lower our energy consumption, and deal with waste appropriately through proper separation and recycling.

Of course, having a disability factors into the equation about how much one can do to help the earth. Many people with disabilities must resort to less eco-friendly practices in order to address health issues and to thrive, although that’s not to say disabled people can’t take steps to be eco-friendly.

For instance, my husband, Jared, infuses factor products to treat his hemophilia. This procedure involves single-use plastic tubes, metal needles, and glass bottles.

According to a 2019 National Geographic article, one expert estimated that 25% of the waste generated by U.S. healthcare facilities is plastic. This is because the equipment used to treat patients needs to be sterile, and plastic serves that need well.

When my mom was ill with cancer, she needed to drink from plastic straws due to the limitations she had. And by the time she was bedridden, she needed to use disposable adult diapers.

In Japan, a country with a rapidly aging population, adult diaper waste is a growing concern, as The New York Times reported last year. Used diapers are likely to end up in incinerators, like most of the country’s waste. Compared with other types of waste, diapers require more fuel to burn, leading to costly waste management bills and high carbon emissions.

To help alleviate this problem, the Japanese town of Houki converted one of the town’s incinerators into a diaper recycling plant, which in turn produces fuel for a public bathhouse, the Times reported. This, in turn, helps to lower natural gas costs. Japan is fortunate to have the resources to come up with this creative solution.

Since there are limitations to taking steps to protect the environment when accessing or providing healthcare by people with disabilities or those who work at treatment centers, I offer the following suggestions.

If you can afford to, avoid single-use plastics.
If using single-use plastics cannot be avoided, be mindful of how often you use them and how you dispose of them. Seek out alternatives to the plastic bags you use for shopping or carrying things. At home, stock up with multiple-use, high-quality storage containers.

Leave single-use plastic products to the ones who really need them to live. This includes people with disabilities, older people, and babies, for example.

Avoid fast fashion.
I am guilty of patronizing fast fashion — which refers to the mass production of high-fashion clothing trends — because I like dressing up. My clothing budget is quite low, hence the temptation for cheap clothes from chain retailers.

According to a 2019 article by Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen, the fashion industry is responsible for producing 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.

What percentage of clothing in your closet do you actually wear? Think about it, and try not to buy more than you would actually use. Instead of shopping for new clothes, why not shop at secondhand stores or learn to rework old clothing into more modern styles?

Jared’s entire collection of clothes fits into just one drawer. This makes his wardrobe easier to organize. He wears a “uniform” of plain, minimalist T-shirts with classic denim jeans or shorts. When I first met him in college, he still wore clothes from as early as sixth grade! He only updated his wardrobe when he built up muscle as an adult and needed to switch to clothing a few sizes bigger.

Jared doesn’t go out as often as I do, and bleeding episodes occasionally force him to stay at home. He also considers himself more of an indoor type. So he doesn’t think he needs many clothes.

But even if one’s lifestyle is active or outgoing, we can find some perspective from people like Jared. After all, how many clothes do we really need? As my drawers are now filled to the brim with clothes, I actively try to avoid buying new ones. Furthermore, I now support a local seamstress instead of buying from retail chains. The sewing takes time, but the outcome is often top quality and looks great. It’s also more eco-friendly, and I get to support someone’s livelihood.

Click here to read the full article on Hemophilia News Today.

IOScholarships Launches New Superheroes Podcast & Blog to Encourage More Diverse Students to Pursue Careers in STEM
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five superheroes in different costumes

IOScholarships, a platform that provides access to scholarships worth over $48 million for diverse students interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers is launching a new Superheroes Podcast. The host of the series is María Trochimezuk, founder of IOScholarships, well known for her work as a spokesperson for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and her passion to increasing opportunities for underrepresented students in STEM.

In the podcast, María Fernanda interviews STEM students and experts to learn about more about their path to STEM, what kind of thinkers they are, and the unique benefits of a multicultural approach to careers in STEM. Episodes are 10 minutes on average.

“We are thrilled to be launching the first IOScholarships Superheroes Podcast. Not only it is exciting to hear from the innovators of the future, it’s also inspiring to hear how they overcame obstacles and how their ethnic background is so unique for doing incredible things in the STEM field,” said María Trochimezuk, founder of IOScholarships.

IOScholarships blog provides comprehensive bilingual articles on financial wellness, career tips and some of the most important issues related to STEM. The platform features the scholarship of the month, internship, and job opportunities.

Some of the May featured scholarships and career opportunities include the Olay Face STEM Scholarship open to female sophomores of color, majoring in a STEM field and the Intel Scholarship which helps STEM undergraduate and graduate students of color.

Data shows that roughly 20% of whites and students of color declare STEM subjects as their majors entering college, but nearly 40% of minority students change their majors and more than 20% left school without earning a degree.  As a result, while Blacks, Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Hispanics collectively form 27% of the population, but they account for only 11% of America’s science and engineering workers.

“This data is what fuels IOScholarships. It is imperative that we raise awareness of the benefits of diversity in STEM if we want to build a robust STEM pipeline,” said María Trochimezuk.

The new redesigned website, developed by Diego Wuethrich, head of operations at IOScholarships, makes easier for students to look for scholarships and financial wellness resources and provides a refreshed “digital front door” for students interested in IOScholarships’ community. Also, the logo was powered by creative designer Andrea Leon-Grossman who has more than 15 years of creative experience with proven success in developing visual campaigns and delivering results.

The superheroes were created by talented IO Scholar, Matthew Rada who is an aspiring 2D character designer and storyboard artist.

IOSCHOLARSHIPS SUPERHEROES POWERS

  1. SCIENCE
    1. Sofia ~aka~ C O M P O U N D
      1. She combines elements, chemicals and other components to create medicine to heal any ailment.
  1. ENGINEERING
    1. Eli ~aka~ S T R U C T U R E
      1. He has the power to create machines and devices that help build and clean our environment. He works closely with Compound, Techno, Ink and Algorithm to make our world safer.
  1. TECHNOLOGY
    1. Tasha ~aka~ T E C H N O
      1. She has the power to create connections and communicate to people from anywhere in the world wherever she may be.
  1. ART
    1. Inigo ~aka~ I N K
      1. He has a beautiful singing voice and creates stories and paintings that entertain and give joy to people. He also creates awareness and empowers everyone to express themselves through art.
  1. MATH
    1. Amelia ~aka~ A L G O R I T H M
      1. She comes up with the right equations and absolute numbers that can solve any mathematical-related problem. She also aids, supports and enhances the powers of techno, compound, structure, and art to make the world a better place.

 

The IOScholarships Superheroes podcast debuts May 3rd, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. PT and can be found at https://ioscholarships.com/podcast. To receive the newsletter/blog please email info@ioscholarships.com.

The challenge of gender bias: experiences of women pursuing careers in STEM
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Clockwise from top left: Nayeli Stopani Barrios, Jessica Becker and Larissa Sanches (not shown: Elise Murphy)

By WiSE students Nayeli Stopani Barrios, Jessica Becker, Elise Murphy and Larissa Sanches, Nevada Today

Women pursuing STEM careers have faced many challenges in the past, and they continue to do so today. In the past, many of these challenges were built into the framework of our public and private institutions and our legal system. Women, for example, were not allowed to attend college and earn a college education until 1840, when Catherine Brewer was the first woman to earn a bachelor’s degree. Gaining a graduate degree wasn’t possible until 1849, when Elizabeth Blackwell earned her medical degree (U.S. News, 2009). Without access to higher education, women had no chance of gaining enough experience and expertise to secure a job of any significance, let alone a career in STEM.

Barriers limiting women’s access to higher education were not eliminated in the mid 1800s with the brave actions of Brewer and Blackwell. The historical prejudices that denied women access to higher education in that century are present today in the minds of many who serve as members of college admissions committees and hiring authorities. According to a study conducted by researchers at Yale University, when provided with identical application materials across all applicants, both male and female faculty rated the male applicants more competent and more employable than female applicants (Moss-Racusin, Dovidio, Brescoll, Handelsman, 2012). Despite holding comparable levels of experience or knowledge, men are consistently chosen over women.

It is an unfortunate truth that gender bias can present challenges even in the circumstance of a woman being identified as the best candidate for a given position and the hiring process initiated. Across the full spectrum of hiring levels – from entry level to executive level – the salary or wage offered to women can reveal gender bias. According to the Stanford School of Business, the entry level salary for a male employee is on average more than $4,000 higher than their female coworkers (Stanford Business, 2021). Because women are less likely to be awarded promotions, the wage gap between women and their male coworkers becomes larger and larger over time. A paper published by the Pew Research Center concluded that, in STEM fields, men earn 40% more than women (Fry, Kennedy, & Funk, 2021). This significant gap in earnings between women and men in the STEM field leads to significant differences in the ability of women and men to pay off debts incurred as part of their undergraduate and graduate education and to establish a solid financial footing as they move through their peak earnings years and into retirement.

Barriers women face in the workplace go far beyond those associated with lower pay and reduced opportunities for career advancement. The impacts of gender bias and discrimination are even greater when a woman holds the identity of mother or primary caregiver for another family member. A study conducted at the University of California, San Diego revealed that “43% of women in STEM careers left their full-time job within 4-7 years of having their first child…compared to 23 percent of new fathers” (Cech & Blair-Loy, 2019). Women are often forced to choose between being an important contributor to the STEM field and being a mother, while men are allowed to be both without having their professional commitment or parenting abilities called in question. In fact, in a study conducted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, one third of private sector employers reported that they believe that women who are pregnant or new mothers are “generally less interested in career progression” (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2018). Women are often overlooked for promotions and, without prospects for growth within their company, many women pursue jobs at different companies, and sometimes within different employment sectors, that allow for professional growth.

Women who hold a non-white racial identity sometimes experience even more extreme forms of workplace bias and discrimination, including having to rise to higher hiring and workplace performance requirements than their white male and female coworkers, being paid lower salaries than their white male and female coworkers, having to assert their rightful status within the workplace more often than their white male and female coworkers, and experiencing less support from women co-workers than white women. Joan Williams, Katherine Phillips, and Erika Hall published a study that examined the prevalence of gender bias among women of color in the workplace (Williams, 2020). These researchers investigated prejudices in women’s daily work life by conducting in-depth interviews with women of color and administering an extensive battery of questionnaires to a diverse group of women working in STEM. Findings from their study and a thorough review of the literature revealed four unique types of bias that influence the ways women of color are regarded in the workplace (Ngo, 2016). One of the identified biases is the Prove It Again bias. This bias is considered to be in effect when men are hired and/or offered advancement opportunities based on their potential, while their women coworkers are hired and/or offered advancement opportunities based on ratings of their current performance and historical successes. Some experience of the Prove It Again bias is reported by nearly 65 % of women, with as many as 77% of Black women in STEM reporting experience with this particular form of gender bias (Williams, 2020).

The Maternal Wall bias arises out of the belief that women lose their ability and commitment to work after having children. Nearly two-thirds of scientists with children said that parental leave influenced their coworkers’ views of their commitment to the workplace (Williams, 2020). Interestingly, women scientists without children are impacted by their coworkers views of womanhood and parenting; they report being expected to work longer hours to compensate for work that is not being performed by coworkers who have taken maternity leave. Many everyday workplace experiences challenge women’s very presence as contributing STEM professionals. Among women holding professional STEM positions, 32% of white women and nearly 50% of women who identify as Black or as Latina report being mistaken for administrative or custodial staff. These biases have significant implications for the success of women of color and all women working in STEM settings.

Harassment in the workplace can take many different forms and can be targeted towards anyone holding any position within a given organization. That said, harassment often plays out in the context of power hierarchies; persons of higher professional rank and power are more able than persons of lower professional rank and power to use their professional power in ways that meet the definition of workplace harassment. (Wright, 2020). Sexual harassment appears to be a particular frequent form of workplace harassment. Holly Kearl, Nicole Johns, and Dr. Anita Raj authored a report of findings from a national study of sexual harassment and assault occurring in workplaces across the United States (Kearl, Johns, & Raj, 2019). According to their report, 38% of women and 14% of men have reported experiencing sexual harassment at work. Much of what can be considered “the STEM education and workspace” has been and continues to be male dominated. Although the gap is decreasing, women still make up only 28% of the STEM workforce (AAUW, 2021).

Click here to read the full article on Nevada Today.

Sound travels much slower on Mars than on Earth, researchers find
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A rendering of the planet Mars

BY ALEXANDRA LARKIN, CBS News

Researchers studying recordings made by microphones on NASA’s Perseverance rover found that sound travels much slower on Mars than it does on Earth. In a study published in Nature on Friday, the team said it looked at recordings dating back to February 19, 2021, the day after the rover arrived on the planet.

Using recorded sounds generated by the rover — like shock waves from the rover’s laser that was used to cut rocks, and flight sounds from the Ingenuity helicopter — the researchers were able to compare the Martian sounds to Earth sounds. They determined that sound travels 100 meters per second slower on Mars than on Earth.

In addition, the researchers realized that there are two speeds of sound on Mars — one for high-pitched sounds and one for low-pitched sounds. This would “make it difficult for two people standing only five meters apart to have a conversation,” according to a press release on the findings.

The unique sound environment is due to the incredibly low atmospheric surface pressure. Mars’ pressure is 170 times lower than Earth’s pressure. For example, if a high-pitched sound travels 213 feet on Earth, it will travel just 26 feet on Mars.

While sounds on Mars can be heard by human ears, they are incredibly soft.

“At some point, we thought the microphone was broken, it was so quiet,” said Sylvestre Maurice, an astrophysicist at the University of Toulouse in France and lead author of the study, according to NASA. Besides the wind, “natural sound sources are rare,” the press release said.

But NASA scientists think Mars may become more noisy in the autumn months, when there is higher atmospheric pressure.

“We are entering a high-pressure season,” co-author of the study Baptiste Chide said in the press release. “Maybe the acoustic environment on Mars will be less quiet than it was when we landed.”

When the initial recordings were made last year, researchers declared it the first time sounds from a foreign planet had ever been captured.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said at the time the recordings are “the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit.”

Perseverance is now hunting for signs of ancient life in the Jezero Crater. In October, it found Mars experienced “significant” flash floods that carved the landscape into the rocky wasteland we see today. And a decade from now, the rover plans to be the first to send samples from the red planet back to Earth.

Click here to read the full article on CBS News.

How Does the Brain Make Memories?
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Human experience is continuous, but psychologists believe, based on observations of people’s behavior, that memories are divided by the brain into distinct events, a concept known as event segmentation. Image is in the public domain

By Neuroscience News

In a study led by Cedars-Sinai, researchers have discovered two types of brain cells that play a key role in dividing continuous human experience into distinct segments that can be recalled later. The discovery provides new promise as a path toward development of novel treatments for memory disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, part of a multi-institutional BRAIN Initiative consortium funded by the National Institutes of Health and led by Cedars-Sinai, was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Neuroscience. As part of ongoing research into how memory works, Ueli Rutishauser, PhD, professor of Neurosurgery, Neurology, and Biomedical Sciences at Cedars-Sinai, and co-investigators looked at how brain cells react as memories are formed.

“One of the reasons we can’t offer significant help for somebody who suffers from a memory disorder is that we don’t know enough about how the memory system works,” said Rutishauser, senior author of the study, adding that memory is foundational to us as human beings.

Human experience is continuous, but psychologists believe, based on observations of people’s behavior, that memories are divided by the brain into distinct events, a concept known as event segmentation. Working with 19 patients with drug-resistant epilepsy, Rutishauser and his team were able to study how neurons perform during this process.

Patients participating in the study had electrodes surgically inserted into their brains to help locate the focus of their epileptic seizures, allowing investigators to record the activity of individual neurons while the patients viewed film clips that included cognitive boundaries.

While these boundaries in daily life are nuanced, for research purposes, the investigators focused on “hard” and “soft” boundaries.

“An example of a soft boundary would be a scene with two people walking down a hallway and talking, and in the next scene, a third person joins them, but it is still part of the same overall narrative,” said Rutishauser, interim director of the Center for Neural Science and Medicine and the Board of Governors Chair in Neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai.

In the case of a hard boundary, the second scene might involve a completely different set of people riding in a car. “The difference between hard and soft boundaries is in the size of the deviation from the ongoing narrative,” Rutishauser said. “Is it a totally different story, or like a new scene from the same story?”

When study participants watched film clips, investigators noted that certain neurons in the brain, which they labeled “boundary cells,” increased their activity after both hard and soft boundaries. Another group of neurons, labeled “event cells,” increased their activity only in response to hard boundaries, but not soft boundaries.

Rutishauser and his co-investigators theorize that peaks in the activity of boundary and event cells—which are highest after hard boundaries, when both types of cells fire—send the brain into the proper state for initiating a new memory.

“A boundary response is kind of like creating a new folder on your computer,” said Rutishauser. “You can then deposit files in there. And when another boundary comes around, you close the first folder and create another one.”

To retrieve memories, the brain uses boundary peaks as what Rutishauser calls “anchors for mental time travel.”

“When you try to remember something, it causes brain cells to fire,” Rutishauser said. “The memory system then compares this pattern of activity to all the previous firing peaks that happened shortly after boundaries. If it finds one that is similar, it opens that folder. You go back for a few seconds to that point in time, and things that happened then come into focus.”

To test their theory, investigators gave study participants two memory tests.

They first showed participants a series of still images and asked them whether or not they had seen them in the film clips they had viewed. Study participants were more likely to remember images that closely followed a hard or soft boundary, when a new “memory folder” would have been created.

Investigators also showed participants pairs of images from film clips they had viewed and asked which of the images appeared first. Participants had difficulty remembering the correct order of images that appeared on opposite sides of a hard boundary, possibly because the brain had segmented those images into separate memory folders.

Click here to read the full article on Neuroscience News.

A Latina creates a platform to provide scholarships for STEM students
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María Trochimezuk created the IOScholarships platform last year to provide access to scholarships and boost more Latino and other students in STEM careers.

By Edwin Flores

A Latina has created a platform to provide access to scholarships worth almost $38 million for Latinos and other students interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

María Trochimezuk, 47, created IOScholarships after noticing the amount of scholarship money that went unrewarded due to the lack of applicants. The free platform gives STEM students in high school and college a place to find scholarships, internships, work opportunities, financial education and resources based upon GPA, merit and financial background.

The aim, said Trochimezuk, is to help students graduate college debt-free while boosting the number of Latinos and other students of color pursuing STEM degrees and careers.

“I always had a vision that I wanted to create a platform that would be a community,” said Trochimezuk who is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. “It’s a first of its kind because we are focusing on underrepresented and underserved students, African American, Latinos, Asian American, Native American and also we have scholarships for DACA students.”

Trochimezuk said the platform, part of the National Scholarships Provider Association (NSPA), has helped provide access to nearly 11,000 students about a diverse range of STEM scholarships that are available from foundations and corporations.

She founded the platform last March, first investing her personal savings and then securing funding for the project through a grant provided by Google’s Ureeka PowerUp program, which supports Latino-owned businesses.

In 2000, Trochimezuk moved to the U.S. on a postgraduate scholarship in marketing and public relations at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and later was selected to be a part of Stanford’s prestigious Latino entrepreneurship initiative.

She worked on public education campaigns for Google and other financial institutions that focused on Latino community support.

Through her experiences, she witnessed how much scholarship money was undistributed because students were not applying. Yet Trochimezuk said she was able to pay off her entire education with grants and scholarships.

Over the last decade, the number of scholarships awarded to students has increased by 45 percent. Yet, the NSPA estimates $100 million in scholarships go unawarded each year due to the lack of applicants.

“We opened opportunities for students with scholarships that now are going to Stanford or MIT — these are brilliant, diverse students, they’re Latino, Black students. And it’s very important that companies pay attention to this workforce because these are the innovators of the future,” she said.

Despite making up 17 percent of the total workforce across all occupations, Latinos account for 8 percent of all STEM-related jobs.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

Scholarship Connoisseur Encourages Students to Apply for STEM Scholarships and Internship Opportunities Now
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Young student holding books and carrying a backpack, smiling to camera

IOScholarships is the first of its kind scholarship and financial education platform for minority and underrepresented STEM students. The technology has been designed with a streamlined user-friendly interface that offers great functionality to help high school, undergraduate and graduate students find scholarships and internship opportunities. IOScholarships proprietary matching algorithm can match students with life-changing scholarships where their diverse background is valued.

“Now is the time for students to apply for college scholarships,” said María Fernanda Trochimezuk, Founder of IOScholarships. “While there are many scholarships that have qualifications like a minimum 3.5 GPA, there are just as many that have lower GPA requirements or don’t even take GPA into consideration at all.”

GPA is an important factor for getting scholarships but is not the only thing that’s important. Schools are looking for dedicated students, who contribute to their community or are involved in STEM organizations or activities. They want to see leadership and perseverance, and while these can sort of be reflected in a GPA, they mostly shine through in extracurriculars.

The majority of the scholarships featured on IOScholarships come directly from corporations and organizations, rather than solely from competitive university pools – thereby maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education. There’s plenty of money that goes unused every year, students just have to search for it.

Each month IO Scholarships adds hundreds of new curated scholarships to its database and posts “The Scholarship of the Week” on its Instagram social media accounts(@IOScholarships), making it easy to find new scholarship opportunities.

In addition to providing scholarships, the IOScholarships platform features a scholarship organizer, news articles designed to provide guidance on how to apply for scholarships, and money saving tips. The platform also offers a Career Aptitude Quiz designed to help students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills.

For more information about IOScholarships visit www.ioscholarships.com or for weekly STEM scholarships email maria.fernanda@ioscholarships.com.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. USPAACC’s CelebrASIAN Business + Procurement Conference 2022
    May 25, 2022 - May 27, 2022
  4. From Day One
    June 14, 2022
  5. NABA 2022 National Convention & Expo
    June 21, 2022 - June 24, 2022
  6. From Day One
    June 22, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. USPAACC’s CelebrASIAN Business + Procurement Conference 2022
    May 25, 2022 - May 27, 2022
  4. From Day One
    June 14, 2022
  5. NABA 2022 National Convention & Expo
    June 21, 2022 - June 24, 2022
  6. From Day One
    June 22, 2022