The Talon staff sat down with Jenna Lippe, a senior mechanical engineering major and co-director of Scientista, to discuss inclusion and women in STEM.
Q. What is the mission of Scientista?
“The mission of Scientista is to empower and promote women in STEM. That’s not necessarily just other women, but people in general.”
Q. What made you want to become involved with Scientista?
“My freshman year is when I became involved. Back then, we were called Women in STEM. I really didn’t know many women in STEM, especially on the faculty side of things, and I saw a bunch of older girls who seemed really cool—Jan Bian, who was one of our directors, and Aubrey Gonzalez. They actually started Scientista, and I thought that was really cool. I just really wanted to hang out with them, and that’s how I got involved in it.”
Q. When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in STEM?
“When I was super young, I wanted to be an inventor, but that’s not as much of a career path as I thought it was. There’s not really a major for that. Engineering is the closest thing. I’ve always enjoyed math and science, even when I was in elementary school.”
Q. How have you seen Scientista grow in the years since it started?
“It started out kind of small, and now we have more than 80 members, which is really exciting that it has become such a big thing on campus. Seeing different people come through, the different types of people that we’ve brought in, we started as just a women’s organization, but our other co-director is actually a guy, Hadley LaMascus, which has been really cool to see.”
Q. Why should students get involved with Scientista?
“There’s no dues, and you get on an email list, so it’s really easy. We have monthly events, and I think that’s the best part of Scientista. They range from panels to movie nights to homework study sessions, and it’s also a really good way to get connected with other people, especially for women in STEM to meet other women in STEM.”
Q. Being in a male-driven major, how have you kept your voice heard and remained a strong leader?
“That is something that I think is difficult to learn how to do. I, personally, am someone who is not always afraid to speak out, but when you are the minority in your major, it can be hard. I’ve tried to communicate with professors if there’s ever anything that I feel I need to communicate with them about.”
Q. Why is it so important to focus on women getting jobs in the STEM field?
“I think representation is really important. If you only have male people creating your products, you’re missing half of the population. I know I’ve been able to bring other things to the table that maybe my male peers cannot, just because I have a different perspective of things.”
Q. How have you seen or felt gender biases in your area of study?
“I would say mostly just in representation or being called out for being a woman, which is not necessarily a negative thing. But, when you’re the only girl in a class of 40 people, sometimes you’re called out for that. That can be frustrating, but I think that there’s a lot to improve in that.”
Q. What do you think OC needs to do to become more inclusive for scientists of all kinds?
“I think just really show that their programs are not going to be biased in any way, and just treat women the same as men. I know a lot of people who get discouraged right from the beginning, and if OC could really show we treat all people the same, and we want all types of people in our programs, that would be very exciting.”
Q. What would you say to encourage women entering a male-dominated field?
“To not get discouraged. To try and find mentors and role models. That was the biggest thing for me was just really finding upperclassmen who were in STEM and were excelling and were women. Finding those people and not getting discouraged.”