Skip to main content

Girls STEAM Ahead Inspires Students to Dream

Nicole Caceres is a certified Project Manager and ScrumMaster, and leads the Chicago chapter of Women in Schneider Electric. She is passionate about introducing girls to the possibility of careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and advancing women in leadership roles.  In March, she attended a Girls in STEAM event, and here are her takeaways:

Can you name 5 female scientists? How about 5 male scientists? It was easier to name the men, right? I dream of a day when we don’t differentiate. I dream of a day when I ask you to name 10 scientists and the names of 5 women and 5 men roll off your tongue without a second thought.

Girls STEAM Ahead is a networking and mentoring event that’s  helping to make my dream a reality. Girls STEAM Ahead connects 7th-12th grade female students with women studying or working in science, technology, engineering, art or math (STEAM). It’s an initiative of Chicago’s South Suburban STEAM Network, and is free to all participants thanks to support from Schneider Electric.

On Saturday, March 2nd, I participated in the Homewood Science Center’s 3rd Annual Girls STEAM Ahead event. The event is sponsored by Schneider Electric, and more than a dozen of my colleagues (women and men!) helped with this year’s event.

Idlewood Country Club hosted the event for about 150 wide-eyed, curious girls who were ready and eager to embrace the day. The girls traveled from 38 different schools across Chicago's Southland to attend the event. The majority of the girls are from low-income school districts and many reported that they have no women professionals to turn to for mentoring.

The girls first got to roam around various STEAM equipment and information booths, then were strategically placed at tables occupied by women in STEAM careers.

The program began with an icebreaker activity designed to get the conversation flowing at the tables. We shared stories about our biggest fears and what super power we’d most like to have. Vicki Repsholdt, marketing executive for Schneider Electric, delivered a brilliant keynote speech during lunch.

Vicki was authentic. She shared her personal struggles and successes and offered practical advice to encourage the girls to keep chasing their dreams. After lunch, the Women in Schneider Electric volunteers led the attendees in an activity. We challenged the girls to use the scientific method and a handful of materials to give a helium balloon enough weight so that it would hover and not float up or drop to the floor. The girls had a blast learning and problem solving. We ended the day with a panel discussion and an exercise on facing major decisions. 

I am proud to be part of a company that encourages its employees to #EmbraceDifferent and recognizes the business value of diversity. And, just in case your niece, daughter, wife, sister, friend or mom ever asks, here you go: 10 famous women scientists!

For more inspiration, watch this video from another recent Girls in STEAM event in California.