STEM women discuss academic hardships

Although several universities have classes that spread awareness about gender inequality, women in the academic world can still be treated unfairly. To create a discourse around this, the College of Science at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) virtually hosted a panel discussion empowering women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) on April 9. Highlighting challenges that women in STEM encounter, the event demonstrated the power and resilience of which women are capable. 

Assistant Professor Chandrika Satyavolu of computing and design started the event with a presentation on career advice for women in technology. Satyavolu currently works as the lead faculty for CSUMB’s network and security concentration, and she has an extensive portfolio of past programming and problem-solving experiences. Satyavolu’s research has produced automated identifications of products utilized in warehouses and supermarkets. 

“The first thing I would advise you (to do) is support each other,” Satyavolu said. “When you walk into a classroom, talk to the other women, build a relationship with them and find yourself a female mentor.”

Satyavolu guided viewers through personal steps she’s taken that have proved beneficial to her overall success. Not hesitating to say “no,” taking initiative, asking for help and continuously maintaining the eagerness to evolve are vital to developing a strong work ethic and relationship with oneself. Keeping an open mind and saying “yes,” when opportunities arise allows for unforeseen possibilities.

“There is nothing that is right or wrong,” Satyavolu said. “Be bold, be confident and speak your mind.”

Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC) Research Associate Jessica Bautista spoke next on her experience as a first-generation college student, offering advice on how to obtain one’s dreams. Coming from a large family that lived in the San Fernando Valley, Bautista now has her own family as mother of two boys. Bautista received her doctorate in plant biology from UC Riverside, where she minored in molecular biology and genetics and was awarded graduate research fellowships. 

“Life is rarely straightforward,” Bautista said. “I remember being an undergraduate and having no clue on what to do. I had no guidance.”

Feeling an immense lack of support from academic programs, Bautista followed her natural abilities of performing well in scientific courses, but felt a struggle when taking upper-division courses. A semester shy of graduating from her undergraduate career with no sense of direction, Bautista felt the urgency to make significant decisions and change the academia diversity scene, where Latinx women are often underrepresented. 

By happenstance, Bautista took a science course where she worked part-time as a graduate student lab assistant. With the help of her mentor, she took a chance of applying for her doctorate where she was accepted and quickly discovered feelings of isolation and experienced ignorant racial interactions with fellow colleagues. Despite the hardships, Bautista continued to strive to further her education, accepting what she thought was her perfect position: UROC research associate at CSUMB.

“All of these situations have only made me more confident,” Bautista said. “It has made me want to help students to make sure this doesn’t happen.” 

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