Study: Nearly half of girls not encouraged to study STEM
Studies show nearly half of girls are not encouraged to study science, technology, engineering or math.
"We are bound with some sort of bias and stereotype that women cannot do very well in mathematics and science," Magdalena Rakowska, who holds a Ph.D. in environmental engineering, said.
She blames stereotypes, or even fear for the underrepresentation.
"Women bring different types of things to bear in discussions and decision-making, and so when there's a lack of women in the role of being able to make decisions ... it puts us at a disadvantage," Kimberly Gramm, senior managing director of Texas Tech's Innovation Hub, said.
Gramm said parents play a key role in encouraging their daughters to pursue careers in STEM. A little more than a third of women at Texas Tech are involved in STEM.
"Being involved in women organizations so that your child or your young student can come and participate in the dialogue around what's happening in the community," Gramm said, "and what are big problems the community is trying to solve. The curiosity, the piece about how we solve problems has to be a part of the daily discussion."
Rakowska is also the CEO of one of the college's startup companies.
"I'm a scientist, but I wanted to bring the science outside of the university area to a broader community, where people can see the impact of environmental studies and what it means for them," Rakowska said.
Her company works on sampling devices that can be used to monitor air, water and soil quality, which can provide a sense of the environment they live in.
Rakowska was inspired to pursue a career in STEM by her high school chemistry teacher,
"She was encouraging us to explore, and the way she was talking about the subject was pushing the imagination, and we were just inspired by the colors, what it means, understanding the fundamentals," she said.
Rakowska said women should not let fear of failure prevent them from going into these industries. She also encourages parents to and teachers to instill independence in students.
"We are exposed to biases and stereotypes in the workforce, it makes us more strong, and maybe instead of fighting it or being sad about it, that we have to work so hard to get somewhere, we can take advantage of that strength that we have and just move forward," Rakowska said.