Honors College, Johnson & Johnson create initiative to promote women in STEM fields
Women make up 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce, yet when it comes to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, they remain largely underrepresented.
Only 13 percent of women are in engineering and 25 percent in computer and mathematical sciences, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project.
More specifically, women make up 39 percent of chemists and material scientists, 27.9 percent of environmental scientists and geoscientists, 15.6 percent of chemical engineers, 12.1 percent of civil engineers, 8.3 percent of electrical and electronics engineers, 17.2 percent of industrial engineers and 7.2 percent of mechanical engineers.
A recent collaboration between the Rutgers—New Brunswick Honors College and Johnson & Johnson is aiming to change those statistics.
“It’s been long known — and this is something that even the White House has brought to our attention — that in our nation, while there are many women that enter STEM fields in college, the work force is not proportional,” said Sunita Kramer, associate dean of Academic Affairs for the Honors College.
There are more men in leadership positions and in STEM fields than women, even though women make up half the population, she said.
“Why do we not have equal representation?” Kramer said. “There have been a lot initiatives in many different areas to support and retain women in STEM, and this is just one of them ... his is just one of the new initiatives that we’re working (with Rutgers) on."
More than 80 percent of a family’s healthcare decisions are made by women. Johnson & Johnson's goal for the program is to increase the number of women practicing medicine and creating medical tools, said Johnson & Johnson Group Worldwide ChairmanSandi Peterson in a press release.
“Ensuring such talent is cultivated to enter the workplace is critical to maintaining successful businesses and meeting the changing needs of an increasingly complex marketplace,” Peterson said.
Diversification of the STEM graduate pool and workforce is not happening quickly enough, said Kathy Wengel, worldwide vice president of Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain.
“Johnson & Johnson was founded on science and innovation, and we’re committed to being a partner and advocate for women,” Wengel said. “So we are very enthusiastic about working with these esteemed institutions and organizations to expand the idea base in STEM2D fields and fostering diversified perspectives across the world.”
The Honors College opened its doors last fall for its very first class.
The school brings together students from across the liberal arts and professional school together to work in interdisciplinary teams, presenting a unique opportunity for Johnson & Johnson to work with Rutgers, Kramer said.
“We have just entered into this partnership a few weeks ago. We are developing the details of that partnership and how the program will use the grant money we received over the next several weeks,” she said. “Right now, we know that we would like to use the funds in a combination of scholarships as well as support programs.”
Rutgers is committed to creating an inclusive environment, making this STEM initiative between the Honors College and Johnson & Johnson representative of that goal, Kramer said.
“With the recent merger with the medical school and other professional schools, we have a unique opportunity to really educate our student population with many different disciplines,” she said.
This sort of initiative is important for Rutgers community members and the general public to know about because it provides an equal opportunity, Kramer said.
Kramer would like to give all her students an equal opportunity to pursue the fields that they would most thrive in and like to create a culture at Rutgers that supports that.
“The issue of supporting women in STEM is a national and international issue, and so I think that it’s something that here at Rutgers we should be aware about and supporting,” she said.
Samantha Karas is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and English. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @samanthakaras for more.