Student in Lab

Tools for Purposeful Action During and Post-Pandemic: Investigating, Addressing & Imagining Strategies for Undergraduate Women in STEM

On January 15, 2021, Douglass hosted “Tools for Purposeful Action During and Post-Pandemic: Investigating, Addressing & Imagining Strategies for Undergraduate Women in STEM,” a virtual conference through the Big Ten Academic Alliance Working Group for Advancing Undergraduate Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

The conference gathered leaders, students, educators, and researchers from Big Ten Academic Alliance partner schools as they worked to understand and investigate how the pandemic has affected retention for women in STEM fields. The group also met to anticipate how the post-Covid environment would affect women in the STEM sphere. 

The keynote speaker was Dr. Tamara Pearson, the inaugural Director of the Center of Excellence for Minority Women in STEM at Spelman College where she focuses on equipping, empowering, and elevating women of color in STEM. Her talk, titled "When Things Fall Apart," focused on how STEM educators can respond to the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic.

Throughout the event, attendees engaged virtually through research panels, program presentations, and networking sessions. Among the day’s activities was the “Student Voices” panel, which featured students from institutions across the country sharing their insights. Chemical engineering major Aarushi Govil DRC’22, represented Douglass on the panel.

“I really liked being a part of the panel,” said Govil. “Not only were the fellow panelists and moderator great people to discuss what it’s like being a woman in STEM with, but the attendees were so receptive to my comments. It felt amazing to be able to represent Douglass women in engineering, and I think I did a good job conveying what has been beneficial and what has not been during online classes in a pandemic.”

The conference is one aspect of a multiyear initiative founded by Douglass in 2018 to foster collaboration between Big Ten institutions with the goal of creating sustainable solutions to the persistent underrepresentation of women in STEM. For students like Aarushi, the Working Group’s efforts has already yielded tangible results.

“I would 100% do it again,” said Govil. “Being heard like that was so empowering. I admire all of the work the attendees do for women in STEM and know they will continue to advocate for us and uplift us.”

To learn more about the Big Ten Academic Alliance Working Group for Advancing Undergraduate Women in STEM, please click here.