Yale University has established a $14 million endowment fund to encourage women’s participation in the sciences in honor of Michele Dufault, a senior who was majoring in Astronomy and Physics when she died in 2011 . This fund will primarily be used as financial aid to support women pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors at Yale, with the remainder to be distributed amongst summer research fellowships, undergraduate conferences, and other events .
“Michele Dufault was a remarkable student whose enthusiasm and love of science inspired both her professors and her fellow students,” Provost Steven Girvin, ex officio chair of the fund committee stated. “We felt that establishing a perpetual fund to provide opportunities for young women who will become leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to pursue their dreams would be a fitting tribute to Michele.”
Despite a diminishing gender disparity in STEM majors (women now earn about half of all bachelor degrees in science), women continue to face job discrimination in STEM fields [6, 3]. A recent study at Yale has shown that science professors are more likely to hire a prospective male employee versus a female with the same qualifications . With these setbacks still present, the endowment may have come at an extremely apt time.
As women continue to face roadblocks in pursuing work in STEM fields, Yale provides support with programs and groups such as the Undergraduate Women in Science at Yale. The Michele Dufault Endowment is meant to provide yet another resource to help more women pursue their goals in science.