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Inaugural Girls in STEAM Conference Inspires Students to Dream Big

Kathleen Neff, Account Manager at Schneider Electric Energy & Sustainability Services, attended the inaugural Schneider Electric Girls in STEAM Empowerment event.

Here are her takeaways:

I’ve seen the advancement of technology completely change K-12 education over the last decade. Today’s teachers know the workforce of tomorrow needs stronger technical and critical thinking skills. They realize engaging students in real-world lessons around science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) is essential to prepare them for the 21st-Century economy.

I know first-hand how hard it can be for teachers with funding constraints to provide the STEAM resources needed to empower students. That’s why it’s important for educators and companies that will hire these girls in the future to enhance STEAM learning opportunities for students. 

The struggle to provide ample STEAM opportunities and inspiration is especially difficult when it comes to girls. Even in 2019, STEAM programs for girls are hard to find. Young girls aren’t encouraged by society to develop and explore STEAM skills, nor pursue these careers when the time comes.

Women Underrepresented in STEAM

Recent research shows that women are significantly underrepresented in many STEAM fields. Women in the United States represented only 26 percent of computer and mathematical occupations and only 14 percent of architecture and engineering occupations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Despite these statistics, girls have proven time and again that they have the foundational knowledge and aptitude to be successful in STEAM fields. Female students' achievement in mathematics and science is on par with their male peers. And female students participate in high-level mathematics and science courses at similar rates as their male peers, with the exception of computer science and engineering.

And yet, while women make up half the total U.S. college-educated workforce, they represent only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce, according to statistics from the National Girls Collaborative Project

Susan Holliday, Associate Superintendent, Education Services of Capistrano Unified School District was also in attendance of the event and knows how important STEAM programs are for highlighting career opportunities available to girls.

“Having the opportunity to educate women that any career is possible for them is essential. Exposing them to experts in the space is essential. And having them dream a little bit and think a little bit beyond what they thought they could ever do is really important,” Holliday said.

First Annual Girls in STEAM Empowerment Conference

This opportunity to spark a young girl's interest in a STEAM career is why I was so excited to be part of Schneider Electric’s first annual Girls in STEAM Empowerment Conference. We showcased a variety of STEAM fields by having six successful and impressive women share the story of how they started and have continued building their own STEAM career. The conference also featured hands-on activities in a positive and supportive environment for the young women to feel empowered to pursue STEAM careers.

I’m inspired by the impact the conference made on our female attendees. Cinea, an eighth grader who dreams of being an animator said, “I’ve been to other events similar to this, but this event has really struck something in me.”

Milea, an eighth grader with aspirations of becoming an aero-systems engineer, was equally inspired by the female STEAM professionals she met and said, “my favorite part of today was learning about all the people with different experiences.”

STEAM Events Impact a Young Woman's Career Trajectory

Girls like Milea and Cinea represent thousands of other girls across California — and the nation — who are hungry for more opportunities to advance into STEAM-related careers. It’s clear events like the Girls in STEAM Empowerment Conference are a great way to inspire young women to pursue classes, extra-curriculars, internships, and ultimately careers in STEAM.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Educational Sciences states that: “Teachers should expose girls to female role models who have achieved in math or science in order to promote positive beliefs regarding women’s abilities in math and science.”

At Schneider Electric, we’re always looking for opportunities to do just that. And as a woman, I’m particularly excited that we are now working to help give teachers the tools and resources they need to engage girls in STEAM careers.

As we work with schools across the state and the country, we’ll continue offering activities and events at no cost like the Girls in STEAM Empowerment Conference. Schneider Electric has a vital interest in supporting STEAM programs for girls and boys across the country. We have to make sure STEAM-educated students are prepared to fill the technical jobs needed to support our business and so many others. 

“Education, first and foremost, needs to expose our students to STEAM so that students are problem solving, critically thinking and working together,” said Holliday. “That just further prepares our students for the careers that are going to be there. Careers that we don’t even know about today. And if they have those skills and that understanding and that foundation, they’re going to be better prepared to serve our world.”

That’s why it’s more critical than ever to inspire girls like Cinea and Milea to not only pursue STEAM careers, but also to remind them that anything is possible.

“Having this meeting is amazing because it tells me that yes, you’re a girl and you might be a minority, but just keep pushing,” Cinea said.

If your school needs help with STEAM engagement, either in the classroom or extracurricular, Schneider Electric can help. Learn more about our STEAM work and other offerings. And feel free to send us some info so we can discuss your needs and visions for your district.