2018 Women in Engineering Empowerment Essay – Yan Li

Diversity is very important to an institute, as well as a research group, since this society consists of various cultural and ethnic groups. Academia is to society what seed is to harvest. The increment of female professors in STEM at universities (or colleges) could significantly improve representation of women in these fields.

Female professors in STEM set role models and could attract more female students into STEM. Some women students may think STEM is very difficult to learn and understand, which strongly blocks their ways to STEM. However, through talks or discussions with female professors at universities (or colleges), women students could have a better understanding of STEM. Taking myself as one example, I am entering the final year of my Ph.D. research and start looking for a faculty position. One of the major reasons I want to work in academia is that my research on renewables strongly helps protect our environment and enables a sustainable development; and thus, it will be very exciting to have more students, especially women students, keep working on this promising area and contributing to the society and human beings. Meanwhile, I am ready to be a good mentor and cannot wait to work with more women students. Therefore, in my opinion, female professors in STEM could strongly help improve representation of women in STEM.

Female professors are generally recognized as successful leaders due to the hot competitions in academia, which could be used as an example to encourage the next generation of young women to STEM, who want to stand out from the crowd. Since academic presentation and communication are very common in academia, female professors will have more opportunities to expose themselves to the public than other women workers such as women industry engineers. It gives female professors many chances to touch the young generation, encourage and guide them to enter STEM fields. Taking myself as one example as well, one inspiring presentation was given by a female professor in mathematics when I was in the high school. She is enthusiastic, well-cultivated, and has profound knowledge and extensive learning horizon, all of which highly impressed me at that time. And from then on, I made my mind to be a female professor like her. And now I am still working hard to fulfill my faculty dream and attract the next generation of young women to STEM as well.

Last but not least, female professors could have more time on family due to the schedule flexibility at universities (or colleges), which will be very attractive to women who want to focus more on their families. Therefore, it is very important to let more women know the advantages to be a female professor. For instance, organizing workshops, giving talks, initializing specific consultation, etc.

Despite the difficulty we may encounter on the way to improve representation of women in STEM, I believe where there’s a will, there’s a way. Life is limited, but it is never too late for those dream-seekers, like me!