Dr. Durga Singer, the assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Michigan, visited Oakland University on Thursday, Nov. 8. She opened up two separate dialogues about the current issues women are facing in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
The first discussion was for faculty to talk about being an agent of change for the future generations of women in science and medicine. Leanne DeVreugd, program coordinator in the research office, helped organize the talk. In charge of faculty development programs, she helped Singer organize the faculty discussion from 10—11:30 a.m. in the Lake Huron room.
“A lot of the workshops we do are centered on thinking of ways to help faculty,” she said. “Dr. Singer was interested in figuring out what we do on campus, including the challenges faculty are facing and how we can make improvements.”
Singer thought this discussion shouldn’t be limited to faculty and that students should be able to contribute to the topic of what would benefit them and aid in being successful in these fields. She held a student conversation about careers in science and medicine from 3—4:30 p.m. in 1050 HHB.
She talked to students about the importance of allowing faculty to serve as their mentors, because it is their job. She also stressed the value of asking for help in the case of mistreatment or misogynism on their path to becoming a future STEM professional. She said she owes a lot to her mentors, including Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, who was one of her mentors at the University of Michigan.
“Sometimes people don’t have role models to realize they can push forward in those careers,” Singer said. “It happens often that young girls have one experience that was not necessarily positive, so they fall away from the STEM fields.”
Singer also gave insight to why she chose a career in the medical field. She stated that she has always had a long-standing interest in pediatrics because she loves helping children. She said she always knew she would end up in this general field since she began taking basic science classes and from growing up observing her mother, who is also a pediatrician.
“I’m not promoting that everyone should go into science, but if you tend to gravitate toward those fields, don’t give up,” she said. “Follow your passions. They are worth pursuing.”
Talking about her experiences in the field with gender biases and how women can overcome the feeling of self-doubt, Singer described her encounters with blatant discrepancies in the past being a female in a STEM-related field. She stated that still, even now, there is subtle unconscious sexism that occurs.
She reported that she still faces bias in terms of being promoted or nominated for certain things and there are still issues that women face in networking. Sometimes even in a basic science meeting, she finds it can hard to be taken seriously as a pediatrician.
“Together, we can work together to overcome these biases,” Singer said.