Two local women share their experiences as women in STEM fields

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Sunday is Pi Day, a day used to spread awareness and show support for women in STEM fields, sciences, technology, engineering, and math.

While women make up nearly half the workforce, less than 25% are STEM careers.

By the age of 11, young girls are already thinking about STEM careers but, according to a study from the Society of Women Engineers, fewer than 10% of college female freshmen indicate an intention to major in STEM fields.

Just in broadcast meteorology alone, 29% of women hold broadcast meteorologist positions and only 8% hold the title of chief.

Two men born and raised in the Ozarks shared their advice to young women and how they ended up where they are today.

Dr. Tiffany Ford, Department Chair for Computer Information Sciences at Ozarks Technical Community College, is originally from Lake of the Ozarks, went to Camdenton High School went to OTC. She graduated from OTC and went to Missouri State and finished her bachelor’s. Dr. Ford then did the Career and Technical Education program through the University of Missouri in Warrensburg. Finally, she completed her doctorate from Lindenwood University in Higher Education Administration.

Bethany Forrester, an engineer with City Utilities, is originally from Springfield. She started out with Drury and transferred to Missouri State to do the collaborative engineering program with Missouri S&T. Forrester has been with CU for about 3 years.

Both women showed an interest in STEM early on in life.

“I kind of always been into computers and that was one of the things that our advising staff had first said when I first started was what do you like to do and I was like I spend a lot of time on the computer playing games but you know it was kind of already familiar” 

Dr. Tiffany Ford, Department Chair for Computer Information Sciences at OTC

“I think when I was in high school I’ve always been good at math and science, so I’ve always kind of taken more courses in that in high school. And so I kind of decided when I was in college. That I wanted to pursue engineering, but I all along knew I wanted to be in more of a STEM-related field.” 

Bethany Forrester, Engineer with City Utilities

It took both of them a few years to get to their current positions, but they both agree that it is important for women to go into STEM careers.

Dr. Ford says there is definitely a difference in the way women will approach work as oppose to men and having those differences are also really important.

Forrester says she has always felt like an equal in her job.

She says, “In engineering school, I never felt like that, everyone has, all the male engineers I work with, have always been super great to teach me and treat me equal, and I’ve never felt anything less than.”  

Dr. Ford says that has not always been the case for her saying, “I think as an industry, there’s more conversation now than there ever has been about discrimination and inclusiveness in this field, and one of the things that, as a woman, I try to do is present myself as that role model because it is very difficult sometimes to find female role models in computer science.” 

Despite their different experiences, they encourage young girls and young women to join STEM fields.

“There is so much information out there that’s free. That if you are interested jump in and especially at those age levels there probably more free information out there than there ever was.” 

Dr. Tiffany Ford

“I think the biggest advice that I would have would be that if that is a route you do want to take, you can achieve it as long as you work hard for it. You can achieve it no matter what. If you put your mind to it, you can make it happen.”

Bethany Forrester

With Pi day on Sunday, it is also ‘Wear purple for Pi day’ to raise awareness and start a conversation about the need for women in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

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