Girls and STEM Education

March 21, 2008

Do you ever wonder what types of events other AAUW branches put on? This weekend I visited the AAUW Buffalo (NY) Branch for their third-annual Tech Savvy event. The day exposes sixth to ninth grade girls to careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Although women make up more than 50 percent of the workforce, the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology states that women comprise only 25 percent of the science, engineering, and technology labor force. While discrimination, lack of encouragement, and outdated stereotypes all contribute to women not participating in STEM fields at the same rate as they do in the workforce, informal learning and hands-on experiences like Tech Savvy encourage girls to become the next generation of STEM professionals.

Throughout the day, more than 350 girls at Tech Savvy attended workshops where they learned about careers in dentistry, veterinary medicine, and nursing, as well as those with the FBI and NASA. While the girls were at these sessions, more than 200 parents learned about barriers girls face in these fields, how to encourage their daughters to enter these fields, legislation to diversify STEM fields, and how to prepare for college. The day closed with a keynote address by Camille Alleyne, an aerospace engineer at NASA and the founder and president of the Brightest Stars Foundation, an organization whose mission is to educate and empower young women to be future leaders in STEM. Hearing Camille’s life story of dreaming big and believing in herself inspired these girls to believe that they can — and will — be the next generation of scientists, engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians.

AAUW supports legislation to encourage girls to enter STEM fields. Interested in doing a similar event in your community? Contact AAUW Buffalo for more information on their Tech Savvy program.

By:   |   March 21, 2008


  1. Tamara Brown says:

    From the Buffalo (NY) Branch: Our TS3 program is truly a pleasure to offer. In the three years since the inception of the program, it has grown in many ways.

    I believe that the hallmark of the conference is the collaboration between community partners (AAUW), university partners (the University at Buffalo, in our case), and industry (for us, the Praxair Foundation). These three represent not only the necessary partners to put otgether a conference, but also those necessary to create an equitable future for women in the workplace.

    For branches who are interested in starting such a program, I’d suggest the following: Build a coalition of partners. Then decide what type of program you want to have (and can afford). I don’t think there is a “typical” budget; it really all depends. Also, look for other eresouces to help with materials (For example, this year we received wonderful support from the American Chemistry Council– providing magazines, posters, etc. for each participant… We also have a great, continuing relationship with the Sallie Ride Foundation.)

    Of course, I suggest that you plan early– including the need for many volunteers to help with workshops and logistics.

    I also think that it is increasingly important to make sure that the conference provides a continuing reinforcement of the larger STEM issues. We try to weave “AAUW” through the conference. Tracy’s public policy introduction to the adults was a great way to facilitate an introduction to critical legislation issues concerning women and girls. (We have also had an EF research associate to speak to teachers and other leaders.) We also continue to provide networking opportunities for the workshop leaders and female professionals in STEM. (It’s amazing how often we don’t know each other!) In the end, those connections to AAUW and others promote a better TS4 and TS5 and TS6…. a win-win.

  2. Donna Cowart says:

    After reading about a STEM program you offered, I would like to know the guidelines for offering such a program in our community -who to contact, what kind of facility to use, what expenses, how much time is involved in planning, and other concerns.

    Thank you for your assistance,

    Donna Cowart, president,
    New Smyrna Beach Branch, Florida

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