Fourth Estate/ Viviana Smith

Discover the challenges, triumphs and contributions of women of color in STEM


In 2021, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) stated that women are underrepresented minorities in the STEM workforce, consisting of 35% of the related occupations. Of the 35%, the underrepresented minorities, Hispanics and Latinos, Blacks and Alaska Natives comprise 24% of the STEM field. Women in STEM majors at Mason dedicate long and hard working hours towards their degrees to increase those odds. 

Women of color in STEM face challenges when working in a male-dominated field. According to The Education Trust, Black and Latino STEM students and professionals often experience workplace discrimination, unequal pay and harassment. Men sometimes undermine a woman’s capabilities to perform under pressure which can lead to them being put in a box.

“It can sometimes feel like you’re talking to a wall because they don’t value your opinions as much,” said sophomore Shriya Pasyavala. Pasyavala is a Risk Management member of Theta Tau and the Secretary of Women in Cybersecurity in the Mason chapter. 

Women can feel discouraged when being in a male-dominated field, but it is important to find a community where you feel welcomed and accepted.

Mason offers interest meetings for women interested in the tech industry called Break Through Tech. Junior Joanne Romo, the community outreach chair for Women of Color in STEM, said that one of the women at Break Through Tech was inspiring because she got to see another woman of color in the tech industry. 

Mason offers several clubs to help encourage women in STEM-related fields such as Women of Color in STEM, STEMinists and Women in Cybersecurity. These clubs help women connect by relating similar struggles and experiences with other women of color. It is also a great way to connect and create new learning opportunities. These clubs help women build their confidence and encourage them to continue in STEM. 

“It’s easy to be discouraged at the beginning of college and that is how I found WOC in STEM my first year of college… I was able to find my support system which helped me relate to a lot of the other women’s experiences,” junior Aniyah Syl said, president of Women of Color in STEM. 

Working together can break down barriers to create more opportunities for underrepresented groups in STEM. 

“Any woman in tech or STEM has honestly been an inspiration because it takes a lot to break that barrier in the all-boys club,” said Pasyavala. 

Highlighting the achievements of women of color in STEM can help to break the stereotypes and demonstrate that women are just as capable as men in STEM fields. Celebrating these successes can also inspire women in the future to pursue a career in this area. 

Creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for women of color in STEM requires a collective effort from universities, companies and individuals.