March is Women’s History Month, an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. Throughout the month, our organization was excited to find ways to highlight women - particularly women in STEM - who are making a difference in the world.
According to the American Association of University Women, “Women make up only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and men vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields in college. The gender gaps are particularly high in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science and engineering.” Sometimes, this seems like an insurmountable problem to solve.
Through my work at MIND Research Institute though, I’m reminded that it’s not. At MIND, our mission is to mathematically equip all students to solve the world’s most challenging problems. The STEM Gap is one of those most challenging problems. And like most problems, solutions start with discussion.
MIND the Gap
In early March, we were lucky to connect with Danielle Boyer. Danielle is a STEAM educator, inventor, entrepreneur, and author from Troy, Michigan. She and Jay Flores, a Global STEM Ambassador and Cofounder and CEO of Invent the Change LLC, agreed to sit down with our Creative Content Manager Nina Wu for a frank discussion about women in STEM.
Their conversation centered on gender gaps in STEM education and the workforce, and what individuals and organizations can do to drive the cultural changes that need to occur in order to make STEM more inclusive.
We need to talk about how we can amplify organizations who are doing awesome work to uplift women in STEM and what we can do as individuals to use our skill sets to help them do the work that they're doing...It's not about just recruiting women, it's also about creating a space in the workplace, within clubs, within institutions, and within universities to support women through their journey.
As we continued looking for opportunities to highlight women’s contributions to STEM throughout March, we were introduced to some extraordinary young women. These individuals are changing their communities - and the world - in big ways. Each of these women took time from their busy work and school schedules to talk to us. Their stories made me feel so optimistic about the future, and I can’t wait for you to meet them!
Sloane is a 17 year old from Miami, Florida. She is a high school student, lacrosse player, and aspiring doctor. She’s also the daughter of MIND’s Director of Empowerment Michael Sell!
Sloane believes that no matter the adversity you experience in life because of your gender identity, you should never get discouraged. Your perspective has value. Take your seat at the table.
As a high schooler, I don't feel that I've had many barriers to success yet. I can see them coming, though. As more and more women have opportunities to enter STEM fields, I think more women are further encouraged to pursue those subjects.
Danielle impressed us so much with her contributions to our LinkedIn Live Women in STEM conversation that we had to feature her again!
Danielle is a 20-year-old, Indigenous (Ojibwe) woman recognized for her work as a nonprofit founder, author, environmental activist, and inventor. Her work focuses on diversifying and creating accessible STEAM resources for underserved youth - especially indigenous youth like herself. After witnessing how socioeconomic disparities in access to quality education affected children in her own community, Danielle sought to increase technical educational accessibility through innovative learning solutions. This drove her to start her own educational nonprofit called The STEAM Connection.
Danielle’s hope is for every child to access quality education, no matter their socioeconomic status or background.
Something that I push my students to do is use what I call their ‘STEAM superhero’ and to learn their unique skills. If they have to do it through a robot, if they have to do it through environmental classes - however they have to do it - I want them to discover their superpowers that are unique to them that they can use to solve the problems they see around them.
Finally, we had a conversation with Alexandra that still has me thinking about how I can make an impact in my own community.
Alexandra is a 16-year-old environmental activist and public health advocate from Hinsdale, Illinois. She is also a student, coder, and NASA STEM Enhancement in Earth Science intern. Alexandra and her sister co-founded Students Against Ethylene Oxide (SAEtO), which harnesses the energy of young people to fight for a ban of ethylene oxide emissions, particularly near schools and residential areas. In their efforts to combat ethylene-oxide emissions and usage, they also started the EtO-Free Project. EtO-Free is a cohort of teen girls dedicated to promoting beauty products free from Ethylene Oxide (EtO).
Alexandra believes in empowering students to speak up for clean air and in not being embarrassed. She knows it's easy to be self-conscious, but you don't have to be an expert to have a voice.
Focus on how your skills and talents will directly impact your community and those around you. Once you have a clear vision and the right mentors in your corner, nothing can stop you.
These conversations throughout the month with Danielle, Sloane, and Alexandra left me feeling overwhelmingly inspired. We still have a long way to go when it comes to changing policies and practices to increase opportunities for women STEM, but the future is bright indeed.
Looking for further inspiration? Check out these stories by some of the exceptional women at MIND!