The Sky’s the Limit for Girls in ScienceMarch 24, 2010
With the release this week of AAUW’s latest research report, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and the release earlier this month of the most recent issue of Outlook, which also examines the underrepresentation of girls and women in science and technology, the AAUW office is abuzz with excitement. So I think it is fitting that today we honor Ada Lovelace, considered by many to be the first computer programmer, with this first post in what is to become a regular series spotlighting AAUW programs encouraging girls in science and math.
Last weekend while I was at the National Science Teachers Association conference learning about great programs like AAUW grantee, Aim for the Stars, and watching girls try out robots at an indoor track, more than 150 seventh grade girls attended the Seventh Annual “Explore Your Opportunities – The Sky’s the Limit!” conference, the purpose of which was to encourage them to continue in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Sponsored by the New York, Westchester, and Manhattan branches of AAUW, the Explore Your Opportunities (EYO) conference was held at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx. This new venue for EYO provided excellent lab and computer spaces for the girls who attended, and more than 100 volunteers worked as workshop leaders, classroom assistants, and as subjects for the “Mystery Women” game to keep the conference moving smoothly.
Activities at the conference included “Brain Games,” in which Jenny Libien, a physician and assistant professor of pathology at SUNY Medical Center in Brooklyn, showed the girls the intricacies of Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more women than men. While some girls worked with the team from Estee Lauder in “Hands-on Cosmetic Chemistry,” others made a “Blizzard in a Bottle” with Denise Beautreau, laboratory manager at Mercy College. The students also played the “Mystery Woman” game, identifying women in finance, architecture, engineering, and science, throughout the day.
“This event has deep personal meaning for me,” said conference co-director Wilma Gitchel. “If I had known one woman who was working successfully in a nontraditional field, I would have taken courage to pursue my dreams. My goal is to provide young women with role models so that they can have the confidence that I lacked in my youth.”
As Wilma notes — and Why So Few? supports — parents and other adults are essential to increasing girls’ confidence in their abilities and changing their negative attitudes toward math and science. Not only did the girls at last weekend’s conference learn new skills, but the nearly 50 parents and educators who also attended learned a new way to help girls with math in an origami workshop conducted by Karen Wellington, a public school math coach.
There are more than 70 AAUW-led programs like EYO in the nationwide program directory of the National Girls Collaborative Project, and even more still to be included. If you are interested in sharing information about your AAUW-sponsored science and math career day, award program, club, or camp with AAUW members nationwide, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!
This post was written by Nicole Callahan, AAUW program associate-STEM, with contributions from Lorrin Johnson and Wilma Gitchel, co-directors of Explore Your Opportunities.