Michelle Strausman: Shattering the gender disparity in the workplace and in STEM
Michelle Strausman believes in a simple idea: breaking down gendered barriers in the workplace and in STEM. Not only does she preach this concept, but she is actively participating in the pursuit of gender equity by adding her voice to academic and entrepreneurial communities. She is simultaneously getting her Ph.D. at UCLA while running a successful business.
EMPOWERED WOMEN EMPOWER WOMEN
Michelle gives credit to the strong female figures in her life for inspiring her to question the status quo, particularly regarding gender dynamics in school and in the workplace.
“I have always been surrounded by very strong women making leaps and bounds. My Jewish-Iraqi grandmother was always a huge inspiration for me. Despite being illiterate, as she wasn’t allowed to go to school, she always provided for her family. My mom, her oldest daughter, was the first in her family to obtain an Associate’s Degree.”
Michelle started her impressive academic career at University of California, Berkeley where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and American Studies. After graduation, she taught high school social science in Philadelphia while getting her teaching credentials and master’s in Urban Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Working directly with underserved high school students was a critical moment in her early career, allowing her to see pervasive college access issues, particularly for students attending school in under-served communities.
THE GENDER DISPARITY IN STEM
A couple of years later, she moved back to her hometown of Los Angeles. There, she pursued her second master’s degree in Higher Education and Organizational Change at UCLA where she focused on college access research. Michelle reached a pivotal moment in her career while working at Stanford University’s Office of Undergraduate Admission, where she began to identify the alarming gender disparity in STEM.
“I read thousands of Stanford applications, and I could see the difference in the way men and women talked about STEM, especially computing. I would then eat lunch in Palo Alto and see gender dynamics play out. It was impossible to ignore the lack of diversity in the tech world.”
Instead of simply accepting these large-scale issues and watching them unfold from a powerless college admissions perspective, Michelle decided to return to grad school.
“I thought to myself – what would it look like to give women and under-represented minorities real opportunities to participate in computing?”
She is now a first-year Ph.D. student at UCLA while working for BRAID Research, focused on finding ways to broaden the participation of women and students of color in computing.
When Michelle isn’t working on her Ph.D., she’s further breaking down barriers as a female entrepreneur. She recently started a successful business: Souper Cubes®.
“I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur.”
Michelle Strausman remembers when the idea first sparked up in conversation. She and her partner were walking through Draeger’s Market in San Mateo, CA when they asked each other: What is the easiest way to freeze soup in portioned amounts?
After sifting through blogs posts and validating the need for more convenient soup storage options, Michelle and Jake decided to take the leap of faith. Once they tweaked their soup container design, they consulted a patent lawyer, trademarked their business name, created their LLC and began selling the product on Amazon in February 2018. They didn’t realize that by the end of 2018, Souper Cubes® would be sold at every Sur La Table in the nation.
Whether in the academic or entrepreneurial space, Michelle proves to be a bold voice championing female empowerment and embodying the pursuit of excellence and the dissent of gender inequality.
Want to support Michelle?
Check out UCLA’s Braid Institute