By: Andrea B. Wolf, Director of Public Policy at Girls Inc.
“Inspiring girls to build STEM careers is one of the best ways for them to succeed and to contribute to society. Role models and mentors are critical to attracting and retaining girls in STEM. By connecting STEM mentors with girls, Million Women Mentors and Girls Inc. are paving a path for today’s girls to grow into tomorrow’s innovators, pioneers, and leaders.” Judy Vredenburgh, President and CEO of Girls Inc.
Girls Inc. is committed to ensuring that girls – especially those from low-income and diverse families – view themselves as potential STEM professionals and innovators. Girls Inc. is well on its way to making this a reality for over 138,000 in 30 states and Canada through dynamic partnerships and the Girls Inc. Operation SMART experience. Girls Inc. provides girls with hands-on activities and diverse role models to prepare them for rigorous work, potential barriers, and enormous rewards in STEM careers.
In 2013, 64% of Girls Inc. girls came from households with annual incomes of less than $30,000, one in eight came from families with annual household incomes of less than $10,000, 38% were African-American, 22% were Latina, and 10% were multiracial. Despite these socio-economic and racial challenges, Girls Inc. made strides towards encouraging low-income girls to pursue STEM careers. In 2014, 3,862 girls participated in Phase One of Google’s “Made with Code” initiative. Also in 2014, over 100 girls worked with Lockheed Martin employees as part of the “Creating the Future” program. Girls who participated in this program reported increased interest in studying STEM, positive experiences with female role models, and a heightened awareness that a STEM career is a good choice for girls.
In addition to expanding girls’ opportunities through partnerships, Girls Inc. creates its own hands-on STEM experiences and opportunities for girls. For example, Girls Inc. Eureka!, an intensive five-year STEM, self-development, and athletics program, uses STEM mentorship in the form of college professors, internship supervisors, Girls Inc. staff, and other female students to inspire girls to pursue post-secondary education and careers in STEM. In 2014 1,045 girls participated in Eureka!
In 2015 Girls Inc. will expand its STEM mentoring and inspiration to ensure that even more girls – especially girls of color – view STEM as a path to improve their lives and society at large. First, Lockheed Martin has contributed $500,000 to double the number of affiliates participating in “Creating the Future” program. Based on last year’s results, this will inspire more girls to enter STEM fields and view themselves as future scientists and innovators. Second, Girls Inc. will expand Eureka! to include four more affiliates. This expansion will offer instruction, internships, and mentoring to more girls. Third, Girls Inc. is embarking on Phase 2 of Google’s “Made with Code” initiative. In Phase 2 five affiliates will spend 6-8 hours training 250 teen girls to become “Coding Ambassadors.” These “Ambassadors” will organize coding parties for at least 100 girls per affiliate, resulting in 500 more Girls Inc. girls being introduced to coding. Girls Inc.’ accomplishments and plans are exciting and will certainly open doors for more diverse girls in STEM. However, we cannot forget that it is the mentors and role models, from diverse backgrounds, who form the foundation for these accomplishments and plans. Their commitment to girls’ success and to building girls’ confidence in STEM is the engine that will drive the next generation of female scientists and innovators. To them we are most grateful.