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2018 Women in Engineering Empowerment Essay – Angelique L. McCoy

2018

To improve representation of women in STEM fields, companies, institutions of higher education, and local government could host a nationwide day, or week, of mentoring. If these entities collaborate, girls can be exposed to STEM in a way that is more inclusive, effective, and cost-efficient. One of the main obstacles is ensuring that students would be able to attend for free. To overcome this obstacle, local government, companies, and institutions of higher education would use a small percentage of their philanthropy budget to achieve this goal.
During this event, each sponsoring entity would pick schools near them, or their operational facilities, and send representatives to adopt a group of girls. The mentoring event would be executed in similar fashion to a conference. The event would include an interactive STEM lesson, a STEM panel discussion, an empowerment activity, a career fair, and a spa session.
The students could choose the STEM activity of interest to them or it could be an interactive activity based on the sponsoring entity’s products or services.
The STEM panel discussion could be centered around the need for diversity in STEM career fields, the importance of girls and women in these fields, and school subjects needed to be successful in these STEM fields. The panel could consist of female teachers, professors, company/institution representatives, and local female figures. Student organizations at local institutions of higher education would be vital to this effort, as many companies will not have the number of female STEM employees necessary to reach the number of students interested in attending.
The empowerment activity will be something fun to do in small groups to get girls comfortable sharing their ideas and learning the importance of individuality and variety of perspectives. This will help students to see that a work environment that supports these ideas will flourish in aspects that range from productivity, creativity, and company culture.
The career fair would be based on the panel members and their respective careers. Each panel member would briefly talk to small groups of girls about their company, day-to-day activities, and interesting work projects.
The spa session would consist of a free manicure for students. I recently attended a conference for women in STEM where conference attendees could get free manicures between sessions. This was a fun activity and it really drove home the idea that we were there to have fun and be proud of who we are…women!
Mentoring and exposure are essential to improving representation of women in STEM career fields. We must first educate girls on what is needed to be successful in these fields and then the benefits of having a STEM career. Mentoring gives a more personal experience, a more direct link to these industries. This allows students to be able to comfortably ask questions and build confidence. This idea of a nationwide day of mentoring, I believe, could change the stereotype of what STEM employees are supposed to look like and create a more inclusive interest fo