Women in STEM

STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) typically have a high percentage of male employees versus female employees. According to the United State Census, women comprise over half of America’s workforce, yet only account for 27 percent of STEM workers. While this statistic may seem concerning, the percentage of women in STEM has increased by 19 percent throughout the past 50 years. Women in 1970 only made up 8 percent of STEM workers and only 38 percent of workers in the United States. PEW Research informs that 34 percent of women working in STEM feel their gender has made a negative impact on their work. PEW also states that “women are about three times as likely as men to say their gender has made it harder to succeed at their jobs.”  

Since DSU focuses on STEM degrees, I decided that to get a full look into what it is like being a woman in STEM, I would interview Dr. Ashley Podhradsky. Dr. Podhradsky is the Vice President of Research and Economic Development here at DSU. She has been asked to speak for many conferences, agencies, and events including InfraGard, and Women in Cyber Security (WiCyS). On top of this, Dr. Podhradsky and Dr. Pam Rowland created CybHER, which employs young women to pursue an interest in cybersecurity and cyber operations. When I asked Dr. Podhradsky how she felt about entering a male-dominated field, she answered with the perfect response. “I knew that I stood out in my career field from the moment I decided to study computer security in 2002. I was routinely the only woman in the classroom, then when I became a professor, I was the only woman in the tenure-track line.” Dr. Podhradsky even went as far as to say that she viewed being a woman as an advantage. She used her knowledge to not only build an amazing career but to inspire other women to join the STEM career field.  

A PEW Research poll discovered that 44 percent of females feel overlooked when in competition with a male coworker. Instead of looking at her career and focusing on the challenging parts, Dr. Podhradsky chose to learn the talent of careful responses. She learned early on in her career that “the trick is how you respond to situations. Learning that was the key.” Leading her life with positivity helped Dr. Podhradsky to excel in her field. She states, “CybHER has been my outlet to take any negative situation and turn it into a powerful movement.” Overall, she has inspired many women that I know to pursue an interest and even a degree in Computer Science or Computer security.  

Finally, many people question if STEM fields will ever have an equal representation of men and women. Dr.Podhradsky questions “will we have diversity in terms of experience, thought, background, and education to create a field that better protects our economy, government, and community?” She is not worried about equal representation of genders but is more focused on the representation of education and creativity. Dr.Podhradsky believes that we need diversity in terms of experience to create positive outcomes in the Cyber world. 

If anyone is curious about a career in the cyber field, visit this video about CybHER: www.youtube.com/cybher. This video contains women discussing their experiences and responsibilities in their specific cyber field.