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Professor attends women in STEM conference at White House

May 9, 2014

Indiana State University was represented at a recent White House conference on women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

"Women and girls have the abilities to be in these STEM fields," said Kandace Hinton, associate professor of educational leadership in the Bayh College of Education, who attended the conference at the invitation of Catherine Cushinberry, director of research for Girls Inc., a national non-profit organization with its headquarters in Indianapolis, whom she met earlier this year. "The research even shows that girls do well in science and math in K-12 grades, but they don't make the leap to majoring in those fields when they get to college."

The research conference was sponsored by the President's Council on Women and Girls April 26-28, as part of the administration's efforts to increase participation by girls and women in STEM fields.

"I made some really good connections (at the conference) and it was a really good networking opportunity for me to learn more," Hinton said. "This line of research has not been my forte, but I've always been interested in underrepresented minorities in higher education and I do know there is a pipeline issue when it comes to leadership and women in STEM, based on my work with the provost on a diversity initiative for hiring African American faculty across the board. But STEM was the place where I found fewer folks ready to be faculty members."

Of Indiana State's 1,879 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in STEM fields during the fall of 2013, a little more than 17 percent - or 331 students -were minorities, according to Indiana State's Office of Institutional Research. The Office of Institutional Research also estimated that the university had 24 minority faculty members in STEM disciplines during the same time.

Females, Hinton said, bring a different perspective to the STEM fields. Without their participation in those careers, she added, the jobs available to them are limited.

"People, in general, think you have to have a gift for math, but that's not the case. There's a math expert at Stanford University who's found that at any level people can do math and learn math. It wasn't a new idea to me, but it was affirmed," Hinton said. "Without (women) being in those fields, it establishes a cycle of inequality. I think it could go back to self-esteem and self-confidence kinds of issues. Women, I think, bring a different perspective to STEM fields."

The Council on Women and Girls encourages females and other underrepresented populations to enter STEM fields, where women represented only 24 percent of the occupations in 2009, even though the U.S. Department of Commerce finds women with careers in STEM-related fields make an average of 33 percent more than their counterparts in other careers and experience smaller wage gaps compared to men.

"There are a lot of STEM-related programs all over the country, and to be able to put a hand on all of them, know where they are and connect the pieces was really helpful," Hinton said. "If we can get a focused effort to help girls make the leap from high school to majoring in STEM-fields in college it could go a long way. Everyone needs company on their journey, so if we can build a mass of girls who are interested in STEM-related fields, I think we could see an increase in women pursing and sticking with those careers."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or betsy.simon@indstate.edu

Contact: Kandace Hinton, associate professor, Department of Educational Leadership, kandace.hinton@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

Kandace Hinton, associate professor of educational leadership in the Bayh College of Education, attended the President's Council on Women and Girls research conference to discuss increasing female participation in STEM fields.

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