Enrolling and Supporting Women in STEM: Practical Steps to Take

STEAM: A scientist in a lab

by Daniel Fusch, Academic Impressions

During a tour early this summer of the Colorado School of Mines, I had the opportunity to hear from a number of women enrolled in the geophysics and engineering programs there, and to speak with Stephanie Berry, the former director of CSM's innovative WISEM (Women in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics) program. WISEM is certainly a program worth a close look, as it has achieved some remarkable outcomes:

  • While the national average of women in STEM programs remains as low as 19%, CSM has an average female enrollment of 28% in its STEM programs, and their 2015 freshmen class was 31% women.
  • They have a first-to-second-year retention rate of 94%.
  • Though women are only 28% of the student population, they occupy more than 50% of the student leadership positions on campus.

I wanted to find out more about how they have achieved this, and what lessons their successes might offer for other institutions.

The keys to WISEM's success?

  1. A different approach to marketing STEM programs to women
  2. Community-building and leadership on campus
  3. Involvement of alumni, from admissions to career coaching throughout the four years

Let's take a closer look.

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