UVA Women in STEM, Science Communication & Career Success

By Emma M. Cook, UVA ChemSciComm

While the percentage of women in STEM majors has significantly increased over the last few decades, there remains a significant lack of retention of women in the STEM workforce, especially in leadership positions. There are a number of factors contributing to the disparity of women in STEM fields, an important one being a feeling of not-belonging. Science communication is a powerful tool to help cultivate a sense of belonging for everyone and help contribute to the increased participation and retention of women in STEM. 

On Thursday, October 21, 2021, UVA ChemSciComm held a career-focused seminar where graduate students learned about how to use communication strategies to help promote and maintain the retention of women in STEM fields. Lead by the author, Emma N. Cook, a group of about 20 graduate students participated in guided small group discussions after being presented with data outlining the disparity of women in STEM. Importantly, we discussed how mentorship and role models, making scientific topics accessible, and science and non-science communication to create community are crucial to the feeling of belonging for women. We also discussed how as graduate students, we have a unique position to influence our peers, undergraduates, and into our careers. We plan to continue the conversions sparking in during this session in follow-up seminars, expanding discussions to incorporate disparities experienced by minorities and underrepresented groups in STEM. And, more broadly about how we, as a department, can cultivate a strong and welcoming community.