Helping ‘STEM’ Girls Get Further Than the Fridge:
Turning Aptitude into Career Aspirations
By Karen Purcell
Encourage Participation in Special Programs. More and more workshops are sprouting up nowadays that encourage young girls to maintain their interest in STEM fields. In-school and out-of-school programs are gaining popularity, and in order for that to continue, those of us in STEM fields have to support both local and national efforts to foster girls. The good news is that current programs that focus on increasing young girls’ interest in those fields are tremendous. But without them, there are potential long-term consequences, even for girls who select a STEM path in college.
Support Learning Opportunities in the Community. When in a position to do so, offering summer internships provides a chance for girls and women to learn more about different possibilities in the STEM fields. Many firms also now offer job shadowing programs or career days. Job shadowing allows those interested in a specific field to follow an individual who is already working in that field for a day or a given amount of time. This lets the individual see typical job duties and activities required for that field. It is a great way to get a feel for what a job may entail.
Serve as a Mentor. The significance of mentorship is undeniably important if we are to bring more women into STEM. Women need strong, professional, and positive influences in the STEM fields. Share your expertise, experience, and guidance. An optimistic and confident mentor can have a huge impact on someone’s life.
Take Charge and Educate. We’re an information-rich society and every one of us has access to vast resources—they’re available online for any woman interested in the STEM fields. Women can visit the websites of multiple professional organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers, Women in Technology International, Association for Women in Mathematics, and Association of Women in Science, just to name a few. It is a tremendous opportunity to learn a great deal about the field, about what it’s like to be a woman in a specific STEM profession, about career opportunities, and so on. While it might not be as enlightening as face-to-face communication with a professional in the field, it will certainly give women an informed starting point from which they can grow.
I challenge each of you to take part in the movement to help grow the STEM fields and the ranks of women in it. I encourage you to reach out and see if you can find time to make change, empower and enable young women in STEM.
Karen Purcell, P.E., is the founder and president of PK Electrical, an electrical engineering, design, and consulting firm in Reno, Nevada. She is the author of Unlocking Your Brilliance: Smart Strategies for Women to Thrive in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. For more information, please visit http://www.unlockingyourbrilliance.com.