By Lylah Jakubiak
As homecoming week comes to a close, two students are working to launch a new club to Batavia High School’s ever-growing collection. This new club, founded by Addi (Addison) Lowe and Julia Arulandu, is named Women In STEM, or WiSTEM for short. Assisted by Susan Fricke, their teacher sponsor, this new club seeks to, according to Arulandu, “Inspire and Expose” young women from the Batavia School District to STEM. WiSTEM’s creation brings to light the impact of the gender gap in STEM careers.
The gender gap is the concept that one gender is under-represented in a field of study or job. In this case, the under-representation of women in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields. Lack of diversity in education and the workforce, specifically gender diversity, has been a constant for centuries even though jobs have become more inclusive over the years.
To demonstrate this, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a study in 2023 which found that women in the U.S. only occupied 24 percent of STEM related jobs. This means that men take up 76 percent of all STEM-related jobs. Similarly, in Japan men occupy 84 percent of the STEM industry. In India, the number rises to 86 percent.
The gender gap exists not only in the workforce, but in Batavia High School itself. According to Lowe and Arulandu, STEM related classes, or even higher math classes, have an overwhelming amount of men compared to women. Lowe expanded on this, stating that once she’d gotten the list of classmates for her computer science class, she realized something interesting about her classmates, who totaled approximately 20.
“There was, like, five girls. I was like, okay, this isn’t right. I talked to my friends, they took engineering- and calculus, too. We found that in the higher-up math classes, they saw the same thing. I was like, that isn’t right because women should have a fair shot at these types of classes. We discussed this in Starbucks for like an hour one day and we thought: a lot of girls aren’t exposed to these classes, in middle school or elementary school, so they don’t even know the opportunities that could await them.”
The gender gap is at the very center of Lowe and Arulandu’s new club.
The plan for the club is simple: get young women of all ages excited about STEM and give them opportunities the previous generation had not been given. To do this, the club has three main objectives: preparing for the future, supporting young women interested in STEM, and inspiring the next generation. Day to day, Women in Stem hopes to bring in guest speakers, women who’ve had success navigating the steep gender gap. They will speak with the goal of guiding the women of this generation, and the next, who plan on walking the same path. Career fairs at local colleges and affiliating with local science organizations such as Fermilab or the Museum of Science and Industry, is also under heavy consideration by the club, to allow for field trip opportunities for the club.
To teach younger children about STEM, Women In STEM has shown interest in speaking at elementary and middle schools, to create a sense of awareness and transparency for STEM. This club does have a multitude of plans for the future, but currently, they’ve only been spreading their message by word of mouth, estimating their total number of members to be about thirty once they launch. The new club plans on made its debut at the end of September, 2023, right after the annual homecoming festivities.
While this student-led club is still in its early stages, Lowe and Arulandu have acknowledged the need for the club to adapt in the coming months and years. While there’s still a lot for the students to figure out about the inner-workings of the club, Lowe and Arulandu feel ready for their next step; their first meeting occurred on September 27.