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St. Louis women contribute to 500 Women Scientists, a global effort that promotes women in science

(L-R) Gillian MacQuarrie, Eli Chen and Kristen Oncken talked about the need for more representation of women in STEM fields.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio
(L-R) Gillian MacQuarrie, Eli Chen and Kristen Oncken talked about the need for more representation of women in STEM fields.

There is a stark imbalance in the scientific community, a field largely dominated by men. 500 Women Scientists in an international effort seeking to fix the imbalance and create an inclusive scientific community.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with local members of the grassroots organization about local activities taking place that will introduce more women and people of color to the science fields.

Joining the discussion were members Kristen Oncken, quality control data reviewer at Alkem Pharmaceuticals, Gillian MacQuarrie, environmental scientist at Monsanto, and Eli Chen, reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

Listen to the full discussion:

Chen, who covers the science and environment news beat, said that she tries to include female scientists and people of color voices in her stories as much as possible.   

“I know they exist in the sciences and they need more visibility,” Chen said. “Historically, science has not been kind to [women and people of color.”]  

Oncken said the stereotypes of traditional male and female roles and discrimination discourages many women from joining the STEM field.

“People used to say, ‘oh men are better at math and engineering and spatial reasoning and that kind of thing,’ and there is no science to back that up,” Oncken said. “Everybody has an aptitude for science in some degree. You might not be good a math but that does not mean you can’t work in the sciences.”

She said the 500 Women Scientists organization aims to educate the public about what being a woman scientist means and promotes mentorship opportunities for women wanting to get into the sciences.

MacQuarrie said the global aspect of the organization helps create a network of women that can help each other deal with the problems of their respective countries, where others have to deal with poverty and environmental factors on top of discrimination.

“It’s great that we’re global and women driven because women mentors are really what will help us move forward,” MacQuarrie said.

Related Event:

What: Beer With a Woman Scientist (A family friendly event)

When: Wednesday, January 31, 2018 from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Where: 4 Hands Brewing Company, 1220 S. 8th St., St. Louis, MO 63104

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.


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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.

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