FLATE’s Executive Director Celebrates #GirlsLoveSTEM Month!

Welcome to the May issue of the FLATE Focus, our blog newsletter where we share our work, announce events we
are involved in, and highlight great programs and people across the state who are working hard to enhance and grow manufacturing education in the state.  For the past few years, we have used the May issue of the Focus to celebrate and promote women in Manufacturing. No matter how you slice and dice the data, there remains a significant gap between the number of women vs. men across all aspects of many manufacturing companies. The story in Florida mirrors the national picture. Where are the girls in manufacturing?

Of course, there are the historical, societal reasons and analyzing them is important to develop strategies that can be successfully implemented. Before delving into the ‘why,’ we have to answer two questions. How do we get them into manufacturing?  And, how do we keep them there? We sometimes think we know what to do, or know what can attract and retain women in these fields, but it’s good to get these perspectives from experts who can help pinpoint solutions.

A 2015 report, “Solving the Equation,” the Variables for Women’s Success in Engineering and Computing, published by the American Association of University Women (http://aauw.org/) finds that “women are making significant contributions to the fields of engineering and computing, yet are still a distinct minority in these fields”. Furthermore, the report concludes that “stereotypes and biases lie at the core of the challenges facing women in engineering and computing.” Educational and workplace environments are therefore dissuading women who might otherwise succeed in these fields. Increasing the number of women in engineering and computing will require focused attention by employers, educational institutions, policy makers and individuals to create welcoming work environments for women.

Some targeted actions suggested in the report can be used for all STEM disciplines including manufacturing to:
  • Combat stereotypes and biases
  • Emphasize social relevance
  • Cultivate a sense of belonging in colleges and workplaces
  • Change the environment in colleges and workplaces
The work has to be fun, exciting and challenging. It also has to be socially relevant, including how
manufactured goods help people, our society, or our environment. Work and college environments have to respect and honor everyone equally as well as being enriching and supportive. Sometimes, we can artificially create a respectful and supportive space and place with mentoring programs for young women in STEM fields. This can work well until they get grounded and confident and/or their numbers rise in colleges and in work places. It will take all of us to attract and retain women in manufacturing careers. It will most likely take some training of the current workforce, and it will take a lot of persistence. Using your own version of the strategies above let’s all start helping some young woman today.

Please celebrate with us as we share some great stories about women and girls making their mark in manufacturing and STEM careers. Read about the ‘all girls’ electrathon team at Middleton High School who are out there competing in a predominantly male dominated student competition. We also have stories of two programs one at St. Augustine in St. Johns County, the other right here in our backyard at the University of South Florida in Tampa that focuses on getting at-risk and underrepresented students, particularly girls, interested in STEM. 

Wanting to focus on getting more young girls into your programs? Join us on May 27 at 3 p.m. EST for the Recruiting Girls: Practitioners Perspectives webinar where we learn about successful programs from local K-12 instructors (and more!). Register today at http://www.matecnetworks.org/webreg/?client=1011We’ve cracked the answer to last month’s sTEm puzzle, so give yourself a pat if you got it right!

Congratulations also to all the Florida Manufacturing STEP awardees. By promoting this high profile honor for women from all ranks of manufacturing companies, FLATE hopes to be providing strong, successful role models for the next generation of female manufacturers. Stay tuned for additional stories in upcoming editions of the FLATE Focus. Big kudos to all ET students who recently graduated including two FLATERS who earned their cap & gown this Spring.