[caption id="attachment_3452" align="alignleft" width="300" caption=" Catherine Matos (left), Sally Ride, Mary Hudachek-Buswell"]
Clayton State University professors Mary Hudachek-Buswell and Dr. Catherine Matos, both faculty members in the College of Information and Mathematical Sciences, were recently invited to attend former astronaut Dr. Sally Ride's Roundtable Discussion about Gender Equality in Math and Science Education.
The Apr. 7 event, part of a series of nationwide round tables sponsored by ExxonMobil Corp., featured a distinguished panel gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta to address the issue of motivating young people, especially girls, to pursue careers in science and math with a small select audience of business community leaders, educators, and government officials.
Early on in school, the panelists said, students love science, with research showing that 68 percent and 66 percent fourth grade boys and girls respectively enjoy science. But by fifth and sixth grade, that interest starts to drop off, and it drops off at a greater rate among female students. That decline might contribute to the sad statistic that although women represent 46 percent of the workforce, only 25 percent of the jobs in science, engineering, and technology are held by women, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The panelists agreed that peer pressure in middle school and the ongoing, popular public perception that science isn't "cool" are the driving factors that account for the drop off in students' interest in science. The NSF report on higher education states that, although there are recent increases in most major science fields, women's share of bachelor and graduate degrees in computer sciences and engineering has declined sharply.
Hudachek-Buswell and Matos are part of a group of women faculty members at Clayton State in the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), who last year decided to start an organization for female students called WiSTEM.
“We saw the need to mentor and encourage women in these fields,” said Hudachek-Buswell at that time. “We have gathered women faculty from each of these areas to mentor and cheer Clayton State University women who have a need to connect with other women in these disciplines.”