Women of color in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) fields were represented as panelists in this year’s 16th annual Women of Color Conference (WOCC), organized by Gamma Alpha Omega, at Humboldt State University’s event and workshop during the weekend of April 6-7.
The panelists were four Humboldt State professors: Kauyumari Sanchez from psychology, Paola Rodriguez-Hidalgo from physics and astronomy, Sintana Vergara from environmental engineering, and Margarita Otero-Diaz from environmental resources engineering. The conference was set up for a Q&A portion, half of which were questions from the audience.
Gamma Alpha Omega’s WOCC director, Lorena Thobaben, began with a series of questions. The questions allowed the panel to share the obstacles they went through and how being a woman of color played a role in the experiences they encountered to pursue higher education.
The conference opened with each professor giving a light introduction on how they got into their field of study. Each of the panelists showed that they have influential stories to tell at HSU.
“Despite the disappointing low seat count, these women empowered us and shed some light on how to tackle unequal representation here at HSU,” psychology student Judith Mendez said.
For Vergara, it’s important to challenge her sense of self identity. As a result, she refuses to describe herself under the “minority” umbrella term, which some might consider a term perpetuated by a patriarchal society.
“More than half the world is people of color and the word is being used in a way to see us as smaller figures in society,” Vergara said. “I highly encourage you all to be creative with the words that you chose to identify yourselves.”
This makes it harder for some people of color to see themselves as anything more than just the minority group. Vergara likes to describe herself as so much more than just being a woman of color. The racial and gender wage gap is an area that requires much improvement and women aren’t often taught to negotiate a job offer.
“Negotiate! Be confident and don’t feel discouraged for doing so,” Rodriguez- Hidalgo said.