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Community for women in math and sciences

Paola Rodriguez Hidalgo is a faculty member in the department of physics and astronomy at Humboldt State. She is also the advisor for the Society of Women in Math and Sciences, or SWiMS.

“Sometimes I feel that people don’t see the scientist inside the woman,” Rodriguez Hidalgo said. “It can get very tiring and erode your confidence and your energy.”

The group is student-run and acts as a support system for women in science, technology, engineering and math majors. They are working to improve conditions in these fields by making the space diverse and inclusive for all groups of people that are not traditionally represented, not only women.

Kayleigh Migdol is a sophomore computer science major who is on the leadership board for SWiMS. She runs Codernoon, a coding workshop, for the club every Monday and Wednesday.

After years of desensitization, Migdol became used to being the only girl in her science classes. Then she came to HSU, where she found the Society for Women in Math and Sciences.

“By my senior year of high school, I was one of two girls,” Migdol said. “Building this sense of community is really important. It may seem like you are alone, but we want people to know that they are not.”

McKenna Rayburn, a junior majoring in oceanography, has felt alienated as one of the only women in her program.

“Women should feel motivated to continue with their careers in math and sciences,” Rayburn said. “We need women in these fields, but it’s hard when you don’t feel that connection with your classmates. It’s even harder when you’re surrounded by just men.”

Belen Brashears, a sophomore environmental science major, thinks now is the best time to be a woman in the sciences due to our current political climate. She feels a connection with other scientists and enjoys being around likeminded people.

“At Humboldt State, there’s a really supportive scientific community,” Brashears said. “It’s welcoming to everyone and offers tons of opportunity for anyone to get involved.”

Rodriguez Hidalgo says she promotes building a safe community space where students won’t feel judged. In addition, students feel comfortable when everybody shares some of the same struggles.

“We have created a beautiful community where we support each other,” Rodriguez Hidalgo said. “As scientists, we are good problem solvers, but very often it is much easier to solve somebody else’s problems than your own. When you have a community, you help the person next to you and they help you.”

This article was changed from its original version on March 28 at 2:12 p.m. 

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