YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – STEM jobs, which means work in the field of science, technology, engineering, and math, have recently increased in the Valley.
For many women, the growing field is an opportunity for a better career path.
Dr. Diana Fagan, a professor of biological science at Youngstown State University, has been a scientist at the college for 26 years. Before that, she got her cues from her mother.
“My mother was a scientist. She was the only one of four women in STEM at Berkley in the 40s,” Fagan said.
Fagan is teaching the next generation that is entering the workforce. She said it is a rapidly changing landscape and more women are getting involved.
“It’s incredible in the past few decades how there have been more and more women being involved in the STEM or math and science-related jobs over the years,” Fagan said.
YSU graduate student Sarah Marshall is part of the next generation entering the workforce. She said the idea of STEM being a male-dominated field is ending. The change is influencing young girls who want to be scientists.
“Women in STEM, I think, are like tier role models, and they can see that the stereotype of men only being in STEM is being broken down more and more these days,” Marshall said.
Fagan said if women aren’t taking advantage of the STEM jobs that are out there, they are losing out. She admits that the path isn’t always easy and some obstacles still exist.
“Math and biology, at the undergrad level, we are about equal, but as you move up the ladder, the women start to either not choose that or being discriminated against and not being able to achieve that,” Fagan said.
Marshall and Fagan agree that more women in the field now pave the way for the next generation to pursue their dreams in STEM, and it’s that kind of legacy that is being built at YSU.
Mirta Reyes-Chapman was the first Hispanic female to graduate from YSU as an engineer. She majored in civil engineering and minored in math. She was also the first Hispanic female hired at the Trumbull County Sanitary Engineer’s Office and said she had to earn the respect from her peers.
“It was interesting because when I would go out on the construction sites where I was doing the inspection, a lot of people would be like, ‘Who are you?’ I would say, ‘I am the inspector,’ and their eyes got big like, ‘I don’t believe it,’” Reyes-Chapman said.
Reyes-Chapman now works as the transit program manager at Eastgate Regional Council of Governments in Youngstown. She says it’s now the responsibility of women in STEM to help each other to achieve their goals and that they need to mentor the next generation coming into the field
“Listen to what you want to do. Do your passion. If anyone holds you back, keep on going. Don’t be discouraged,” Marshall said.