Recent studies are finding that the number of women participating in science-related fields has increased at the University of Wisconsin after years of male domination. 

Executive and Research Director at the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute Jennifer Sheridan said the numbers of women faculty in the sciences and engineering disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, referred to as STEM, have increased both overall and as a percentage of faculty in their respective department.

“More women in these traditionally male-dominated fields means more diversity of perspective in the science, more role models for our increasingly female student population in STEM,” Sheridan said.

According to a UW statement, the campus’s faculty is seeing an increased presence of women on campus.

The statement said women faculty increased from 19 to 28 percent in the biological sciences and from 9 to 16 percent in the physical sciences between 2000 and 2011.

Sheridan said there are a number of programs on campus with an aim to encourage women to be more involved in the world of science.

She added the Women in Science and Engineering residential program is one such program that provides peer support for women in the field of science.

An online mentoring program called “WitsOn” is another example of the many programs UW offers to help women become more involved with the field of science.

Sheridan said it is important for women to have leadership roles in the field of science.

“Women leaders are more visible than other women in science and they become strong counter-stereotypic examples that women are great at science,” Sheridan said. “This can help break down those unconscious or implicit biases we all have on a societal level.”

She also said it is important for decisions regarding direction and funding of science to include a female perspective for purposes of diversity.

There are a number of reasons to encourage women to care about increasing their involvement in science, including that their presence involves a new perspective that can enhance scientific discovery, she added.  

Sheridan said outreach to women must start at a young age, often as young as middle school. For example, UW Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Amy Wendt has received a grant to incorporate science modules directly into the curriculum for middle school children in Wisconsin.

She said the grant will fund a study to investigate weather early exposure in engineering will create more interest in engineering from young girls and other underrepresented groups in engineering.

The statement said while there are many efforts to provide equality and diversity, there is much work must be done before women will be fully represented in UW faculty.

Dean of the School of Medicine and Public Health Robert Golden said improvements must come from high positions.

“By having more strong women in leadership positions, we will encourage more women to go into academic medicine, and that will encourage more girls in junior high and high school to seek careers in medicine,” Golden said in the statement.