Last week we celebrated Girl Day, an important milestone during National Engineering Week that encourages the next generation of women in STEM. Only 28% of the science and engineering workforce is comprised of women — a statistic we have the opportunity to change for the leaders of tomorrow. It all begins with girls today.
Danielle Bassett from the Los Angeles Air Force Base Youth Center noticed the increasingly difficult challenge of keeping Club members — and especially girls — engaged in STEM during the pandemic. She decided to do something about it and created a virtual STEM program just for girls.
Danielle helped participating Club members discover new career paths and meet with female leaders in STEM, including her own sister who works as a prosthetist. The girls were able to learn new skills with hands-on practice using their at-home STEM kits. Perhaps most importantly during this virtual era, they had the opportunity to connect with each other and build relationships in meaningful ways.
“The connections fostered throughout the STEM program uniquely encouraged the girls to remain interested in STEM,” Danielle said. While she typically sees high engagement from boys when STEM activities are involved, girls are often less engaged. By creating a space just for them, and one which was laid back, more social, and connected to life situations, the program experienced much greater interest than the Club’s standard STEM activities.
The program kicked off after a successful STEM training conference sponsored by Raytheon Technologies and featuring special content from Techbridge, an Oakland-based nonprofit devoted to “breaking the cycle of generational poverty through the innovative use of technology.” As a national Boys & Girls Club partner, Raytheon Technologies offers innovative ways to bring STEM to the next generation, on and off campus, adapting to a virtual world.
Danielle relied on these conference influences and key takeaways to embed a social-emotional aspect to the program. Techbridge uses this framework to involve girls with the world of STEM, especially in low-income communities, where this exposure may otherwise not be available.
This program and its success with engaging girls in STEM via social-emotional connection provides an important model for other Clubs involved in STEM programs. On Girl Day and beyond, we’re celebrating its success and are hopeful in our ability to create opportunities for the future generation of women in STEM.