March is Women’s History Month, with the Women’s Center hosting multiple events around campus. Michelle Paustenbaugh, chemistry professor at Weber State University, hosted a discussion on the importance of women’s roles in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields. The lecture was question-based, with interaction and discussion revolving around three short videos.
Paustenbaugh started the lecture with information on some important women in science who have made a difference. She talked about the women discovering new and innovative ways to describe documents and programs for all to understand.
“There is a necessity of different types of thinking within the workplace,” Paustenbaugh said. “Men and women think in different ways; it is nice to have a mixture of both worlds when collaborating with one another.”
The videos presented were of three different origins with regards to business advertising for laboratory work, European union efforts to intrigue women to enter scientific fields, and a former beauty queen with a doctorate in biochemistry. The videos were presented and open for each member of the audience to give their opinions and answer questions.
The second video presentation, involving promotion of women into scientific fields, was titled “Science: It’s a Girl Thing.” Paustenbaugh asked questions about the reality of the video and its promotion among girls and young women. A female commenter on the front row talked about her three daughters in response to the video.
“My two oldest have been great in school and feel that it (science) is an easy subject,” she said. “My youngest daughter struggles in school, but told me that she is pretty so she doesn’t have to be good in school. I feel this video might have encouraged her to show that beauty and brains can work together.”
A male commenter in the back row commented on the unrealistic views of women within the workplace in regards to the video. He said younger girls might be interested in the video, but the types of women portrayed are usually not going into scientific fields.
Paustenbaugh talked about encouraging girls at young ages to pursue scientific interests and possibly careers. She asked the audience about encouragement they had received as children and further ideas to pursue.
Another male in the audience commented on the lack of scientific interest among most people.
“Everyone has different learning styles, but for some people, the thought of science is far from interesting,” he said. “The right teacher can make science fun, but it takes a different teaching approach to reach those individuals.”
The third video was based on a former pageant queen with a doctorate in biochemistry. She wore a tiara and a lab coat to talk about scientific principles in her online videos. Paustenbaugh discussed the targeted age group and efficacy in reaching women of all ages.
Many commenters said they thought the videos would reach young girls, but might not have an effect on girls in higher grades. The need for all-around encouragement for women in the STEM fields is important and up to everyone to help future generations realize their potential, Paustenbaugh said.
The focus group-style presentation yielded much participation and interaction between students and Paustenbaugh. The overall thought emphasized at the event was the importance of having a diverse workplace and how it can bring innovation, success and encouragement for women within the scientific fields.