Speaking of Girls in STEM

Welcome to the July issue of our FLATE FOCUS newsletter. As our country focuses on increasing the number of STEM workers at all levels of the workforce, one obvious, but elusive source is young women and girls. Women are still significantly underrepresented in most, but not all STEM fields. We can do something about that, but to borrow a phrase, “it takes a village.” We all have to participate in the challenge, and the challenge includes changing some of the ways we do business.

Rather than dwell on the root causes that are riddled with the historic sociology of the human race, I am  going to move on to what we should do and what we can do now to build and strengthen our female STEM workforce. How do we respond to change these ideologies? I see two parts to the solutions puzzle. First, we have to get girls and women interested in STEM careers. Second, we have to keep them there - both in school and later in the workforce. There are nurturing recruitment programs going on across the country in a variety of venues for specific STEM disciplines. Most have some common elements in that they are nurturing, and they are often single sex cohorts. They teach and encourage self-confidence. They mentor girls and young women. They are woven with fun and focus. They reveal STEM’s role in helping people. They are all good, and many of these programs are very successful.

All of these elements cannot stop at the end of recruiting programs. In mostly male dominated STEM education programs and workplaces, women continue to need these program elements during their tenure in school as well as in the workplaces they enter. Our college programs and workplaces have to be warm and welcoming. It has to enriching. It has to be fair. It has to honor and respect every woman as an equal professional.

There is revealing data available if you look for it. But, to answer these questions, I look to my own experiences, and to those of my female STEM professional colleagues. Our many and mixed experiences map easily to published reports. Many of our lives are marked with life changing events that are gender related. Our stories include the good, the bad and the ugly. Some stories should not have to be experienced by anyone, and most certainly, should not be experienced by today’s rising women STEM professionals.

This issue celebrates girls and women in STEM. Read about FLATE’s very successful all girls summer robotics camp, and meet our Florida female engineering technology faculty. Pick up some tips and best practices when reading about our three-day educator camp for recruiting girls into STEM careers. Be inspired by the interview with Ivone Pinz√≥n, a vivacious Colombian electronics engineering student who volunteered as a camp assistant for our “all girls” camp. Take a trek in the Himalayas, and see how some very poor children in the region are thriving in an educational environment that centers around music (which in a way is woven with STEM principles).

Take a few moments to read the FOCUS, and take some time to focus yourself on what you can do to support young women wanting to, or already considering a STEM career. How can "YOU" help them get from here to there? How can you make a difference? How can we help?