University scientist calls for more women in STEM

Yesim Darici is the University's Assistant Provost for STEM, Director of the Center for Women's and Gender Studies and a physics professor. Photo by Yeskanisayka Urbina/PantherNOW.

By: Yeskanisayka Urbina/Staff Writer


Being Florida’s first female physics professor in 1987 at the University was an accomplishment that Yesim Darici did not intentionally plan as she pursued her passion for physics.

Darici is the first woman from a STEM field to hold the position of the director for the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies (CWGS). Her passion for fighting against inequality within the scientific field sparked as she progressed in her mentorship and leadership accomplishments.

“Since the day I start working in the physics field, I saw the inequality. I did not see any diversity. There were no women physicists, professors, or very few graduate students,” said Darici. “So that bothered me and I decided long and before that I’d do something about it. That’s how it started.”

Before studying in the United States, Darici lived in Turkey, where she obtained her bachelor’s in physics. She came to the U.S. with the hope of becoming more than just a teacher, as that was what was expected in her hometown.

“It wasn’t about a conscious decision. I was very good at math and physics,” said Darici. “In Turkey, you become a high school teacher, and here you can work in labs… In Turkey, there are no high tech labs.”

But coming from a foreign country and realizing that she was the only woman in most lab tables did not stop her from leading and mentoring Hispanics into the physics field with an aspiring mentality to make a change.

Darici told Student Media that diversity was needed in the University as most of the women and minorities in the past student populations were not moving up the career ladder as quickly as hoped.

In her 32-year career at the University, Darici began to fight for equal rights in South Florida, where she became the education officer of the National Society of Hispanic Physicists.

“At FIU’s physics department, 30 years ago, all students were Hispanic…but there was no Hispanic professor,” said Darici. “I was also the only woman professor.”

She said that despite the greater push for more women to enter scientific fields today, there is still an unconscious bias among people in the subject. She said the unconscious bias refers to the insensible judgment towards one’s ability to get things done.

Darici was also appointed as an Assistant Provost to STEM in 2017, where her role consists of encouraging women and minorities to think in a more entrepreneurial and commercialized way.

While directing and mentoring, Darici was able to receive two grants from the National Science Foundation to help the University’s advancement with women faculty.

In 2011, they received the NSF ADVANCE Institutional grant for the institutional transformation at the University.

“It changed everything. The culture, to be more women-friendly, minor friendly, to hire more women, to hire more of the minority,” said Darici.

Just having celebrated International Day of Women in Science on Feb. 14, Darici encourages to build a community where women and minorities continue to pursue their dreams.

“We need women scientists; there’s a great need for it,” said Darici. “You don’t have to be a genius. Hard work always precedes all other things. They can’t ignore you for long.”

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