A double major in electrical engineering and mathematics, Gia Azcoitia says she doesn’t encounter many women in her studies. That is why she decided to form her own network.
Now in her senior year, she partnered with some of her female classmates to form an FIU chapter of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM).
“So many women struggle to find their places in STEM fields, but I know with certainty that there does exist a niche for all of us,” said Azcoitia, who serves as founding president of the FIU chapter. “I hope one day everyone can feel welcome in these spaces. Overall, I’d just like women who are new to STEM fields, much like I was, to know that their perseverance is valuable and to not give up.”
Women account for approximately 27 percent of all mathematical scientists in the United States, according to AWM. The national organization is focused on helping women and girls thrive in their mathematical endeavors and to promote equitable opportunity and treatment of women and others of marginalized genders and gender identities across the mathematical sciences.
Currently, the chapter leadership is focused on outreach to grow their community of women mathematicians. Ph.D. student Melissa De Jesus is serving as vice president. She was first introduced to AWM while working on her master’s degree at Florida Atlantic University.
“It is not always easy pursuing a career in STEM in general, but being a woman does make it harder … [That] lack of representation can be discouraging,” she said. “However, the push for organizations like AWM does help us all to overcome this difficulty together. It is incredible to go to a national conference and see a ballroom full of women mathematicians, talking about different obstacles they've had and what tips and tricks they can share to overcome them.”
In addition to Azcoitia and De Jesus, co-founders of the chapter also include Iryna Petrenko and Ginelle Gonzalez. An already busy year, the group of math students will continue to expand their networks this summer through internships with Azcoitia headed to the Boston University Photonics Center, De Jesus bound for the federal Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California and Petrenko crossing the ocean to work with a research group at the University of Bourgogne in France.
Ayleen Barbel Fattal contributed to this story.