A well-known fact is that a significantly smaller percentage of women are enrolled in STEM majors than men, and the University of Florida is no outlier.
The engineering undergraduate student body is made up of 77.8% males and 59% white students. These statistics leave women of color feeling like an outcast.
Michelle Thackeray, a 19-year-old UF material science and engineering junior, said she has to be an intersectional feminist to form a camaraderie with other females in STEM.
“I don’t think I really have a choice,” she said. “It’s the only way that you can push back and make sure you’re heard.”
She said she doesn’t know why there are so few women and especially women of color in the field. But she does put some of the blame on how young girls and boys are raised differently.
“I think we should get gender roles out of kids toys,” she said.
In high school, she said she remembers leading group projects and hearing her group members call her “bossy.” But since being at UF, she has felt more accepted.
Thackeray said she is also from El Salvador, so she has had classmates ask her questions with racist undertones such as, “Are you the first person in your family to go to college?” She said people assume her family is uneducated just because of her race.
“It’s like everyone is constantly trying to make you fit into a box, and when you don’t fit into that box, it makes them uncomfortable,” she said.
She said her intersectionality is important because women of color are struggling to be the loudest — white women will always have the bigger megaphone.
When she graduates, she said she wants to be in a workforce that will still give her equal pay.
“As a woman, you know a lot of the struggles you go through,” she said. “And it’s important to support each other because you can’t expect men to understand.”