Women in STEM thrive at Eastern

Cam'ron Hardy, News Editor

The science, technology, engineering and math departments was previously known to be dominated by males until the early 1990s, but according to a 2021 article, of the 1.8 million people hired to work in 2016 and 2019, women accounted for 50 percent, according to Edventures. Some of the women on Eastern’s campus in STEM programs include and Alejandra Alvarado, the associate professor of mathematics and department of mathematics and computer science, Harper Gerfen, a junior geology major, and Destiny Smith, a junior biology major.

Alvarado talked about her time since being in the STEM field.

She said she was accepted into a program called the EDGE, Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education, program. Alvarado described it as an “in-between bridge program.”

Alvarado said that she met a lot of remarkable women that she still keeps in touch with.

“I did [the program] in 2002,” Alvarado said. “I met so many amazing women from across the country, and it basically became my network and my foundation to help me meet other women in science and math, but also to just meet other women in STEM.”

The program took place in different locations including Spelman College, Bryn Mawr College, and Pomona College in California. Alvarado intends on going to the 25-year reunion later in October this year.

Alvarado recalls experiences with one of her professors where she was not treated properly in her physics class.

Alvarado asked one of her professors for help, and he would not help her unless she came to him with other males in the class. She wondered why the professor did not like her but found out that she was not the only lady that was not being respected by him.

Gerfen also talked about her experience as being a woman in STEM. Gerfen works in the mining industry with mostly males, with a few female coworkers.

“I think [the job] is just kind of hard to get into because maybe [us women] are told at a certain point that we can’t do the things, but all in all, [at work], I haven’t really received any of that,” Gerfen said. “I feel like I’ve just been pushed to kind of explore anything that I wanted to and kind of just grow my skills.”

Gerfen said the type of professor someone has is based all on experience and not on whether they are male or female.

“If you think that you know more than someone, then that can have a factor in the delivery or the way that you speak to a person, so I kind of look at it that way as opposed to, it’s a male dominated field and women are suppressed,” Gerfen said.

Smith said that she has not been confront with any issues pertaining to being a woman in STEM.

She works with primarily women and said that the experience has been great.

“I feel more comfortable around women just because [of] experiences in the past,” Smith said. “I don’t know, I feel like being surrounded around women make me feel more comfortable because they understand me more than if I was surrounded by a group of men.”

She said she is very close with her boss, Barb Schrock, a horticulturalist, at Whiteside Garden.

“I’m very good friends with my boss,” Smith said. “She pretty much sees me as like another daughter of hers.”

Smith also said that the relationship with her boss is very important because without her, she probably would not be in the field that she is in right now.


Cam’ron Hardy can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].