Scholarships for Women in STEM Under Attack

scholarships womenCBD/HIV Research at FIU, Dr. Madhavan’s Nairs Lab | FIU Flickr

Gabriella Mateo | Contributing Writer

Private STEM Scholarships are now receiving harsh criticism for utilizing reverse sexism to boost women in a minority field. 

Sex-based scholarships are “dirty money”, according to Mark Perry, a retired economics and finance professor, who is determined to use the recessional period of his career to take down such programs. 

Meanwhile, women only make up about 34% of the STEM workforce, according to the American Association of University Women, despite accounting for almost 60% of undergraduate enrollment and yet being actively denied more support. 

“Many Women in STEM need the extra help in order to keep pursuing their careers. There are countless scholarships that are oriented toward different people and situations, so I don’t see anything wrong with having one for Women in STEM,” Juliana Alvarez, an FIU third-year biology major, said when discussing the situation.

Disagreeing with this sentiment, Perry has placed his magnifying glass specifically on The Clare Booth Luce Program, named after one of the first women to be appointed to a multitude of important diplomatic positions. 

Ms. Booth Luce was a congresswoman, ambassador, and playwright who married Henry Booth Luce, the founder of Time, Life, and Fortune Magazine. When she passed, her will requested that they formed the CBL program whose purpose is “to encourage women to enter, study, graduate, and teach in the natural sciences, in engineering, in computer science and in mathematics.” 

The CLB Program is applicable to 210 colleges and universities, and 3,348 women have been granted this award since 1989. Congresswoman Luce did specify that at least 50% of the program’s awards must go to Roman Catholic colleges or universities.

Through this scholarship, the Henry Luce Foundation has become “the nation’s single largest private source of funding in higher education for women in science, mathematics, and engineering”, according to its official site.

Perry has gone as far as to file almost three dozen civil court cases against the said program. His claim to these cases is that the CBL programs are unconstitutional according to Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any educational setting. 

The retired professor cannot go after the CBL program directly as they are privately funded, and Title IX does not affect them. His issues lie within the fact that the money is not directly given to the students but through a middleman: colleges. 

These universities are the ones that Perry accuses of violating Title IX as they are educational and public institutions. From his perspective, it is discriminatory and unconstitutional for a government-operated college to provide a specific group aid and deny others the same opportunity. 

This is why he has filed over 600 complaints to a range of universities and is actively pursuing the elimination of “reverse sexism”. 

Most reactions to Perry’s determination are persistent in supporting women in STEM. When asked about disparities between sexes in her field, Beatriz Millian, an FIU first-year behavioral neuroscience student, responded, “I recognize women doctors still face some barriers compared to their male colleagues, including mistaken assumptions by patients,” Beatriz Millian, an FIU first-year behavioral neuroscience student, said when asked about disparities between sexes in her field. “However, this only motivates me further to excel and demonstrate the capabilities of women in medicine and science.”

The Clare Booth Luce Program is also not backing down from this fight and is actively promoting financial support for these women. They have been credited with awarding more than $228 million in funding to 210 colleges, affecting thousands of women’s lives.

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