The Sky’s the Limit for Girls in Science

March 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 stem@aauw.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.

By:   |   March 24, 2010

4 Comments

  1. Girls Making Media is funded in part by the American Association of University Women. Recently we sent a few of our girls to the Women Science and Engineering Conference at the University of Arizona.

    Here is a short video about their experience.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/WomanKraft#p/u/3/KCfdq0VgAeE

  2. nicolecallahan says:

    Thanks for sharing your video with us, Stephanie. What a great experience for these girls! If you’re not already listed, I encourage you to add your program to the NGCP Directory so others can learn more about what you’re doing and your needs. http://ngcproject.org/directory/index.cfm

    Have you heard of YUNG TV in Tucson? They’re looking for more girls to participate in their programs. http://ngcproject.org/directory/programs.cfm?progid=236

  3. Pat Strott-Wheatley says:

    Could you please email me the “rubric” or graph, for rating different criteria of a program?

    Thank You,
    Pat Strott Wheatley

    • Hi Pat,
      I hope the links I sent were useful to your program. For others looking for tools to help in assessing your program, our NGCP partners Assessing Women & Men in Engineering (AWE) offer everything from ready-to-hand out surveys for the kids to spreadsheets for entering the data. AWE surveys are easily personalized and can be downloaded after a free registration process.

      A full complement of resources, including a free webcast for those who are new to assessment, is available @ http://www.ngcproject.org/resources/eval_assessment.cfm

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