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UCF professor encourages women in STEM programs

Pamela McCauley-Bush shares experiences as female engineer

Contributing Writer

Published: Sunday, November 10, 2013

Updated: Sunday, November 10, 2013 17:11

UCF professor Pamela McCauley-Bush encourages student involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, by speaking at several organizations throughout Central Florida. McCauley-Bush plans to speak to students and teachers about how they can use their STEM education more aggressively.

McCauley-Bush is a professor for the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems at UCF. She has spoken at a variety of organizations and colleges across the country, such as Stanford University where she spoke about innovative leadership, and has several events in Central Florida in the upcoming months.

She shares her experience as a female educator and engineer and tells how to make a difference with a STEM career. She is also the author of the books Transforming Your STEM Career Through Leadership and Innovation: Inspiration and Strategies for Women and Winners Don’t Quit: Today They Call Me Doctor.

McCauley-Bush said that her objective when she does her presentations and speaks at events is to speak to people at multiple stages of life, whether they are college students, middle school students or educators. She hopes to teach them about the importance of STEM education, why they should become involved and how to use their education effectively. She focuses an emphasis on women in the STEM field and encouraging diversity in the STEM programs.

“The reason why we have fewer women [in STEM programs] is because they haven’t been encouraged,” McCauley-Bush said. “It’s a perception problem. They feel isolated and haven’t been given enough opportunity.”

The UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science offers a variety of programs for students involved in STEM and is quickly growing, yet many students and faculty still consider these fields to be made up mostly of men.

“It’s really hard to find another girl,” Sandra Gutierrez, a junior mechanical engineering major, said. “It’s even more drastic when you get into mechanical engineering. I think it’s more of a norm.”

Kelly Cox, a recent graduate from UCF, attended McCauley-Bush’s Innovative Leadership talk at Stanford in October. Cox is pursuing her master’s degree at Stanford, too.

She said that Bush has had a huge impact on her STEM career.

“[Bush] spoke about finding your passion and letting that help you find out what to do with your life,” Cox said. “I’ve had classes where I was the only girl. It’s challenging and intimidating, but it can be an advantage. I can stand out and connect better with the other girls. I think women need to understand what engineering is, and women would be more interested in it if they were exposed to it at an early age.”

Fidelia Nnadi, an associate professor and the director of Diversity and Inclusion for UCF Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering, said that she agreed that the STEM programs are mostly male dominated, but she believes that women can become more involved if they have more guidance and if they are encouraged to join the STEM programs early in life.

“I think it goes back to elementary school, where girls aren’t encouraged in science and guidance counselors don’t emphasize it,” Nnadi said. “They feel intimidated. We can build interest because if there is interest, they will no longer feel intimidated.”

McCauley-Bush said women in addition to encouragement, women need good role models in the field.

“We need to be honest and directly address any bias,” McCauley-Bush said. “Leaders and organizations need to ask the same questions. A lot of women doubt themselves when really it’s a cultural problem. On a higher level, we need to promote good examples. Make them aware of the opportunities. They need someone who looks like them in these careers. It will go a long way.”

McCauley-Bush will be speaking at A Pinky Promise Affair on Nov. 16, a fundraiser for Tomorrow’s Investment Matters. This program aims to help young women in middle school and high school change their lives through mentoring and higher education. She will also be a featured speaker at Initiatives in STEM at UCF: EXCEL, Women’s Mentoring Network Series for Girls Excelling in Math and Science, or GEMS, on Nov. 19. 

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