Students and faculty inspire younger generations to enter STEM fields


Caterina Pye '23

Members of the Sacred Heart Greenwich community shed light on some issues regarding women in STEM.

Research shows that men have traditionally dominated the careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field.  This year, National STEM Day fell on November 8.  The day’s goal is to expose students to concepts in STEM and encourage an interest in these academic disciplines.  In the Sacred Heart Greenwich community, women work to raise awareness about the lack of female representation in STEM.  Dr. Melissa Pecullan, Upper School Physics and Math Teacher, and senior Gracie Iannaccone, Head of the Pre-Med Club, both aim to empower women to enter the STEM field. 

Global programs are dedicated to providing assistance to young women entering STEM academia.  Micro-Games America Entertainment (MGA) established a national day dedicated to STEM in 2015 to inspire a new generation of young women and support their interests in STEM.  

Despite efforts to promote female involvement, a gender gap still persists in the STEM industry.  In 2019, women earned more than men in one out of the 70 STEM fields, which was computer network architecture, according to  There are three major challenges that women face when pursuing a career in STEM, including a lack of confidence and mentorship as well as unequal pay, according to  Dr. Pecullan gave insight on how representation of women in STEM is beneficial to society and explained the importance of gender equality. 

Globally, women are continuing to be underrepresented in STEM fields. Courtesy of

“Giving women equal opportunities in STEM helps narrow the gender pay gap,” Dr. Pecullan said.  “This, in turn, improves women’s ability to attain economic security.  Also, having a diverse STEM workforce helps to prevent biases in these fields and the products and services they provide to society.”

As there is little representation of women in the STEM work field, many females are hesitant to enter, according to  The participation of women in STEM fields has increased from 8 percent in 1970 to 27 percent in 2019, but men still dominate the field, according to  Dr. Pecullan reflected on her past experiences in the STEM academic environment and workforce. 

“Thinking back to my own experiences as a student, I was one of only two girls in my high school honors physics class.  And, even many years later as a doctoral student in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton, I was one of only ten young women in a department of 150 students,” Dr. Pecullan said.  “Sacred Heart students are in a unique position to start down the path into a STEM field from an environment that values and supports young women.  Given my prior experience teaching and observing students in the classroom, I can say that at Sacred Heart I see a meaningful difference in girls’ comfort and willingness to ask and answer questions and also to challenge what I’m saying in the classroom.  And, I firmly believe that our all-girls environment is at the root of it.  Take advantage of it.”

Dr. Pecullan believes that to increase the number of women participating, the attitude and environment in the workplaces needs to change. 

“When I think about my own experiences as a young woman studying engineering, or my professional experiences as a woman working in an analytical field, it does seem there are more women doing these things today than there were in the past,” Dr. Pecullan said. “However, workplace attitudes don’t always keep pace with the sheer numbers of women, so there’s undoubtedly more progress to be made on that front to further increase representation.”

The creation of National STEM Day aims to instill a passion and curiosity in STEM subjects to help young women gain skills to combat the challenges of the current economic climate, according to prnewswire.comGracie explained how the Pre-Med Club accomplishes its goal of inspiring young women and how it benefits students who want to pursue medicine. 

“In having the privilege to be the leader of the Pre-Med Club, I am able to educate and expose young females to pursue careers within the STEM field.  Currently, I am working on planning Zoom calls with female medical professionals,” Gracie said. “Statistics show that among first-year college students, women are much less likely than men to major in STEM studies.  Further, by graduation, men outnumber women in nearly every STEM field.  The difference is dramatic, with women earning only 20 percent of bachelor degrees within these studies.  I believe being able to speak to women who have first-hand experience in the medical field will instill confidence in the members of my club.  They will be influenced by these amazing female role models who have persevered to be in the position they are in today; successful in their careers within STEM.”

The pre-med club aims to educate students about the medical field.  Claire Moore ’22

Even with an increase in female involvement in STEM industries, women still hold fewer leadership positions.  Globally, women account for only 16 percent of managers in the information technology industry, according to  Gracie and Dr. Pecullan both share views on how the workplace needs to change.  Both believe that women help offer a different perspective and are a large part of new findings and ideas.

“Women have historically been underrepresented in STEM industries and positions.  Although in the past few decades, women have made substantial gains in breaking down barriers within the STEM field, in certain STEM disciplines, women’s participation rates are still disproportionately low. Without women or minorities, there is a lack of diversity of perspective, and also creative solutions and ideas could be lost,” Gracie said.  “Further, in order to be a successful woman in STEM, there are many obstacles that stand in the way.  However, hearing success stories about women who have and continue to overcome these obstacles daily, encourages me to keep educating these young females into going out, and doing more research to possibly pursue a career within STEM.”

Featured Image by Caterina Pye ’23