July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Women in Engineering
Western Massachusetts boasts one of the nation's highest academic concentrations and largest research capacities; exceptional educational achievement in STEM; a large workforce; and robust STEM-related business sectors. Anchored by “gateway” cities--diverse, underresourced urban centers with large immigrant populations--the region is home to both elite academic institutions and four community colleges.
For reasons not unique to the region, there is a disconnect between STEM opportunities and access--particularly for women of color, low-income women, first-generation college women, and nontraditional women--all disproportionately represented in the community college population. According to The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, women in the region hold less than one-third (28.4%) of all STEM jobs. Only 2.4% of women work in STEM. The US Census Bureau reports that women earn $0.83 for every dollar men earn, and women of color face poverty rates between 11.5-18.8%.
In 2018, four community college women founded the Pioneer Valley Women in STEM Network (PVWIS) to address the issue of access. PVWIS connects women from all STEM entry points--industry, academia, K-12, and nonprofits--to provide mentoring, foster a community of empowerment, cross-pollinate STEM professionals, and provide connections that foster belonging and identity. PVWIS advances equity and inclusion in STEM by celebrating women with nontraditional STEM pathways and experiences--particularly community college women.
This paper will explain the origins of PVWIS, including organizational goals and values; summarize past and planned activities; and present relevant data. Strengths and challenges of the network will be discussed. A review of the literature on the impact of networks and networking events on women in STEM will be provided.
Finally, a collaboration between PVWIS and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) will be highlighted. This partnership, funded by Northrop Grumman, will evaluate the impact of networking interventions on community college women’s motivation, self-efficacy, confidence, and retention in engineering/compsci programs. SWE will use PVWIS as a model for similar networks and research in L.A. and Houston.
McGinnis-Cavanaugh, B., & Huff, I. (2021, July), Building a Community of Empowerment for Women in STEM with a Focus on Community College Women Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36760
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