Little Rock, Ark (May 30, 2018) – Summer has arrived and with it comes the sixth year of the Girls in STEM program, presented by the Museum of Discovery, Little Rock’s science center. Girls in STEM is a free week-long camp that seeks to encourage girls, ages 12-15, to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and careers through interactive activities led by female STEM professionals.
When Girls in STEM was started by Museum of Discovery in 2013, fewer than 30 girls participated, and programming was held only in Little Rock. Although the program grew with more participants and camps through 2016, including the addition of an alumni week for past participants, it was only offered in the capital city. Things changed, however, last year with an expansion to Jonesboro and Pine Bluff. In total there were six separate weeks of camps for 180 girls in the state. 2018 brings an even greater expansion across the state with seven camps in four cities: Little Rock and Jonesboro and, new this year, Blytheville and Stuttgart.
According to Museum of Discovery, the expansion of Girls in STEM into the Delta just makes sense. “We are thrilled to bring the potentially life-changing ‘Girls in STEM’ program to Blytheville and Stuttgart for the first time and back to Jonesboro,” says Shannon Jones, program coordinator. “These areas are agricultural hubs with many STEM career opportunities, and we want this program to expose young women to those careers as well the many others across the state and country. For instance, the young ladies in Stuttgart will spend one day at the Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center side by side with female biologists doing field research and the next day learning coding and the next engineering.”
For 14-year-old Girls in STEM alumni Akiya Smith, the exposure to STEM careers indeed has been life-changing. “Girls in STEM encouraged me to actually research STEM careers,” says Smith. “I used to think STEM careers were boring. However, I now realize that there are a lot of interesting, hands-on and fun careers for me. After participating in activities with UAMS female professionals at Girls in STEM, I now know I want to become an anesthesiologist.”
For Jones, Smith’s experience of being exposed to STEM careers mirrors many others who have gone through the program. “I have heard some girls say they weren’t aware that women could do the same jobs as men or that they just assumed men were smarter or more capable. For these girls to meet female engineers, chemists, programmers and doctors and to hear them say ‘these careers exist for women and you are capable of pursuing them’ ignites a spark in them. I fully expect these girls to become the female STEM professionals of tomorrow.”
According to statistics, more women are needed to be just that, the STEM professionals of tomorrow. The Office of the Chief Economist released a series of reports in 2017 that detailed gender dynamics in the STEM economy. The report including several key findings:
- Women filled 47 percent of all U.S. jobs in 2015 but held only 24 percent of STEM jobs. Likewise, women constitute slightly more than half of college-educated workers but make up only 25 percent of college-educated STEM workers.
- Women with STEM jobs earned 35 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs — even higher than the 30 percent STEM premium for men. As a result, the gender wage gap is smaller in STEM jobs than in non-STEM jobs. Women with STEM jobs also earned 40 percent more than men with non-STEM jobs.
- While nearly as many women hold undergraduate degrees as men overall, they make up only about 30 percent of all STEM degree holders. Women make up a disproportionately low share of degree holders in all STEM fields, particularly engineering.
- Women with STEM degrees are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation.
According to Jones, Museum of Discovery is working to expand the program even further to include more cities and programming that is year-round. “We just need more funding and resources to make this possible. We know the interest and passion exists. We just have to continue make those funding and resource connections.”
Girls in STEM 2018 is funded by donations or grants from Walmart Foundation, ARCodeKids, Charles A. Frueauff Foundation, Nucor-Yamato Steel, Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, McDonald & Associates Collective Collaboration, Phyllis and Ray Simon, Riceland, Lennox and Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.
For more information on supporting Girls in STEM, call 501-537-3075.
If you are a member of the media and would like to do a story on Girls in STEM, you are welcome to attend this summer’s programming. For location and daily activity schedules or to make arrangements to attend, please contact chief marketing officer Kendall Thornton at 501-537-3078 or kthornton@museumofdiscovery.