COD inaugurates women in STEM career day

Argonne distinguished fellow Amanda Petford-Long delivers keynote address

Vandy Manyeh, News Reporter

Amanda Petford-Long believes the rise in the number of women working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) has seen a drastic increase over the years. But as Argonne National Laboratory’s distinguished fellow in the Material Science Division, she also knows the percentage of women in those fields decreases with every career transition.

“Women drop out because women are generally less confident,” said Petford-Long. “If women are told to meet 10 criteria for a job, they probably won’t apply. They think to themselves they need about eight of the criteria. Yes, I can’t tick eight of the boxes. Guys are more likely to apply because they think they can meet two.

“Women are less confident about their own abilities to learn new things.”

A women in STEM event brought together middle and high school students to encourage them to beat this narrative. During the event, hosted on Feb. 23, students had the opportunity to interact with women working in STEM, College of DuPage alumnae working in STEM, and professors here at the college who are positive role models for female students interested in STEM.

Petford-Long re-echoed the call for more women to challenge the status quo in order to create a diverse work environment, that yields diverse solutions to scientific problems, and to change the dynamics as per women’s role throughout the STEM fields.

“Each and every one of us, if I ask you to solve a research problem, you will approach it differently,” added Petford-Long. “And that is why diversity is so important. Because if you have an institution where everybody looks pretty much the same, with the same approach to solving problems, you are going to lose some of those different approaches you could otherwise bring in.”

Petford-Long steers the affairs of Argonne’s Integrated Imaging Institute and teaches as a professor at Northwestern University’s school of engineering. She holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Material Science from Oxford University and a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the prestigious University College, London.

The euphoria was high, and students had a chance to ask mind-blowing questions that usually hinder women from pursuing STEM-related careers. Two separate panel discussions gave attendees the opportunity to hear from a wide-range of STEM professionals about their personal journey, choices and experiences.

The event ended with a tour of the Technical Education Center, a building that hosts the college’s architecture, automotive technology, and welding technology programs.

A community college like COD provides quality STEM education transferrable to top-notch universities in Illinois for a lower tuition rate compared to a 4-year institution. Students were made aware of the many existing transfer agreements, the quality of the faculty teaching STEM courses, and scholarship opportunities like the scholar’s award program.

“The college has some great opportunities,” said Ann Rondeau, COD’s president. “We have engineering programs, where you can come here, study, and then go into University of Illinois engineering school. We’ve got students transferring to UIC, George Washington, and Berkeley.

“We have students who come here and have the attention of faculty who care about every single one of their students and get them on a good start to doing great things. We do that for of course prices that people who are paying for it will be happy with.”

Here is the link to a series of STEM events scheduled by the college for community members and students: