UB summit will promote empowering and advancing women in STEM careers

Two female scientists working in a lab.

By Michael Andrei

Release Date: April 15, 2015

“Ours is an increasingly technological society, and STEM education is a ticket to a great career. The Women in STEM Summit seeks to promote that, to get that message out.”
Liesl Folks, dean, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – As part of its commitment to increase opportunities for female students and other women to build careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the University at Buffalo will host its inaugural Women in STEM Summit.

The event is free and open to the public.

It will be held April 23 from 8:30 a.m. to noon in the Student Union on the UB North Campus.

“There are terrific opportunities in the U.S. for young women entering STEM fields now; I want our current and future students to understand that,” said Liesl Folks, dean of UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Ours is an increasingly technological society, and STEM education is a ticket to a great career. The Women in STEM Summit seeks to promote that, to get that message out.”   

According to a recent U.S. Department of Commerce study, while women fill close to half of the jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. The U.S. Census Bureau noted in a 2013 American Community Survey Report that among science and engineering graduates, men are employed in a STEM occupation at twice the rate of women: 31 percent compared to 15 percent.

April’s summit will focus on encouraging more women to enter the science and engineering workforce, and supporting those on the path already.

The event will bring STEM undergraduate students, scholars and educators from UB together with professionals from the WNY community to share academic and professional experiences.

It will feature panel discussions with local thought leaders representing various STEM disciplines. The keynote address will be delivered by Rachel Haot, New York State’s chief digital officer and deputy secretary for technology in the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“By including science, technology, engineering and math, we are hoping to reach a large audience,” said summit organizer Kathleen Murphy, service manager of UB Computing and Information Technology Network and Classroom Services. “Women are underrepresented in all of these fields although the gap varies by profession.

“The closer we move toward gender parity in computer science and engineering, for example, the more welcoming and engaging for women those workplaces will be.”

The Women in STEM Summit follows last year’s “Sit With Me” celebration, also at UB, which recognized the important role women play in technology.

“UB has the distinction of being one of a handful of institutions of higher education to have women serving simultaneously as dean of its engineering school — Liesl Folks — and as chair of its computer science department — Aidong Zhang,” Murphy said. “Many U.S. companies are trying to employ more women in STEM fields, but the number of women graduating in those fields remains low in the U.S.”

Murphy pointed out that interest in the issue of women in STEM is high at UB, noting the success of last year’s “Sit with Me” program and last fall’s STEM Tweetathon.

“It is essential for UB to remain in the forefront of the discussion,” she said.

The summit is a collaboration between the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, Undergraduate Academies, UB STEM, Academic Affairs, Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership, Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender, Intercultural and Diversity Center, Office of Student Engagement, Computing and Information Technology, the Professional Staff Senate, Institute of Bridge Engineering and Student Life. External sponsors include the WNY Women’s Foundation and Erie-Niagara Chapter of the New York State Society of Professional Engineers.

Information on the Women in STEM Summit is available at http://engineering.buffalo.edu/womeninstem.

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