Mathematics senior and Gender Equity Center student assistant Stephanie Ray organized the first Women in Science Fair at Cal Poly. Isabel Hughes | Mustang News

Women-identifying students showcased their senior projects and research at the Women in Science Fair June 8. Cal Poly Career Services offers 10 different career fairs annually, but this was the first year a career fair was facilitated by the Gender Equity Center to highlight the work of women in science.

“I wanted to start something fun and creative, but also really empowering, specifically for women-identified students in STEM fields,” mathematics senior and Gender Equity Center assistant Stephanie Ray said. “So something like a science fair that can be very, very fun, but also a great networking opportunity was a perfect way for me to kind of leave my mark at Cal Poly and hopefully start something that is an annual thing.”

The research and senior projects presented included topics such as “Injured Athletes’ Perception of Coach Provided Social Support,” “The Preparation of Novel Indole-Based Small Molecules for the Modulation of Biofilm Production” and “Does the Built Environment Influence Maternal Postpartum Weight Control Behaviors and Obesity?”

In addition to providing a space to display senior projects and research done by women in science, students had the opportunity to network with employers. 

Theatre arts senior and Gender Equity Center student assistant Austine De Los Santos helped facilitate the Women in Science Fair and said it was an important event to aide women in navigating a heteropatriarchal system.

“I think what it offers to the community is for us to really come together and appreciate where these womxn are coming from, the struggles that they have gotten through in order to present their project and still choose here to be in their majors, doing what they love continuously, and choosing it again and again,” De Los Santos said. “Rather than them having to prove that this a good presentation or a good thesis or whatever, they can just really present it with their full heart.”

In 2015 women in the U.S. filled 47 percent of all jobs, but only 24 percent of jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), according to the United States Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration Women in STEM 2017 Update. The report added for every dollar earned by a man in STEM, a woman in STEM only earns 84 cents.

Comparative ethnic studies sophomore and Gender Equity Center student assistant Leilani Hemmings Pallay said the Women in Science Fair lets women studying STEM at Cal Poly get closer to a level playing field by providing a place for them to exhibit their work and by making employers more accessible.

“I think they’re all underrepresented in this field. And on top of that, folks with multiple marginalized identities, whether that’s LGBTQIAP+ or whether that’s being women of color, are further underrepresented,” Hemmings Pallay said. “Ultimately, this will show that marginalized folks are doing fantastic work amidst dealing with the outsider syndrome in every space that they’re in, especially at a campus like Cal Poly, especially this quarter.”

Ray hopes to create a space where women-identified students at Cal Poly could gain confidence in pursuing original senior projects and research. She aims to inspire underclassman women in STEM who may be trying to find their place in their own majors.

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