Natalie Gutierrez | Staff Writer
Women make up less than 30% of people working in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It can be an intimidating number – but a new club at FIU wants to make it a little easier to be a woman thriving in STEM.
FIU’s Association for Women in Mathematics is part of the larger, national AWM non-profit organization. A brand new club, it was founded this spring and encourages young women and nurtures their interest in the mathematics field.
Gia Azcoitia is a senior double majoring in electrical engineering and applied mathematics and president of the club. She wants this chapter to cultivate a culture of belonging regardless of gender and intended career path.
“About two years ago, I started in math, and you do not see many women. Being in a major that is so competitive and intense can be hard,” said Azcoitia.
“What I really wanted to find is the camaraderie between women in mathematics. Having a social network in math is one of the most important things you can have because you will have people and peers you can talk to.”
Vice president Melissa De Jesus is a third-year Ph.D. student majoring in applied mathematics. As a graduate student, she has a different perspective on the lack of female visibility in STEM.
“The longer I go as a graduate student, the less women there are. It is important to support each other but also bring awareness. Women in STEM do exist, so finding a community can help encourage girls.”
The board of the nascent club strives to establish a community that uplifts women and promotes confidence-building. Pursuing a career in a field with such a wide gender gap can feel intimidating — something Azcoitia and De Jesus know firsthand.
“From my own experiences, I started in engineering and then transitioned to math. Giving girls the confidence to know that they can do this is important. AWM, as a whole, does a great job of supporting its chapters. AWM has sent me to conferences so I could expose myself to the world of mathematicians and the world of research,” said Azcoitia.
The community aspect is important for women who may struggle with being on their own.
“There are not a lot of women in STEM, so it is easy to feel alone or think that you don’t deserve to be there. Having a collection of women to support you and help you get through the process helps form a sense of community,” said De Jesus.
Regarding upcoming events, the club will be tabling at MMC on Apr. 5 from 4 to 6 pm. They will advertise AWM for 2023 Graduate Student Appreciation Week.
“We want to do this, mainly to let women know that they have a place in math. I want all girls to know that our experiences are valid. We are here for each other,” said Azcoitia.
“We are really excited to be starting this club. We want everyone to know that there is a niche for them out there. We are in this together and we are excited about the future overall.”