Want to learn tips and tricks to landing a summer internship or how to obtain your dream job? Join the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) for “She Succeeds: Empowering the Leaders of Tomorrow,” a special event hosted by one of the largest staffing firms in the U.S., Randstad.

The event, which takes place on Saturday, June 10, 2017 at our Vernon Hills Gathering Place, is designed to teach young women how to prepare for a career of their dreams and will feature opening remarks by Traci Fiatte, CEO, Professional and Commercial Staffing, at Randstad US and GSGCNWI board member, and a keynote address by Kelley O. Williams, CEO and co-founder of Paige & Paxton Elementary STEM Curriculum.

Williams has led nationally recognized STEM pipeline initiatives designed to introduce girls to the field of technology. She also achieved notable recognition for her contributions and success including awards such as “Crain’s Chicago Business 20 in their 20s” and the Porsche “Power 30 under 30”.

To further discuss the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), we chatted with Fiatte and Williams to learn more about their careers and how girls can start planning for success today.

How are you making STEM more accessible for girls and children of color?

Kelley O. Williams: In addition to actively recruiting families with girls and diverse children for our programming and online community, one of the ways that we attract and make STEM education more accessible and inclusive to girls is through storytelling.

Storytelling was the medium that my mom leveraged to make science and math real and relevant to my sister and me. It is still the hallmark of our methodology. Paige & Paxton content, curricula and events are all based on the characters and storylines from the Paige & Paxton book series. The puzzle piece characters are doing the same things as children, having the same experiences, asking the same questions and finding the answers in STEM, which they discover is an integral part of the world in which they live. Storytelling is a powerful way to introduce STEM concepts and careers through a gender inclusive childhood lens while cultivating early STEM interest and awareness that will follow girls throughout their educational career.

Why do you think it’s important for every child, especially girls, to learn about STEM?

Traci Fiatte: The older we get, the less opportunity there is to try new things. And by high school, many kids feel established and may be intimidated to jump into something different. Imagine high school soccer tryouts. Most of the kids vying for a spot on the team have been playing since they were young. Someone just learning how to play will likely feel overwhelmed and may not bother trying out. The same can be true for extracurricular clubs, activities and curriculum. Having early exposure creates confidence, and that confidence can translate into career paths, hobbies and higher engagement in class.

STEM subjects, in particular, are important to introduce early. The most difficult occupations to fill today are in STEM fields because there is a shortage of qualified people to fill the open jobs. As every industry becomes increasingly reliant on technology, STEM specialists will be in even higher demand in the future. Today, STEM fields are traditionally male dominated. That’s changing, but we still have a long way to go. The earlier young women recognize their affinity to STEM subjects, and the fewer obstacles they encounter, the better the environment will be for them when they enter college and beyond.

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What are some of the challenges women face in STEM careers and how can we prepare girls for success?

Kelley O. Williams: One of the biggest challenges that women face in getting interested and remaining in STEM careers is unconscious bias. It begins in early childhood when parents and teachers assume that girls are “naturally” better at reading and boys “naturally” better at math. It occurs when we compliment young girls for being pretty and young boys for being smart. It occurs in the toy aisle when toys that are “designed” for boys tend to encourage more spatial intelligence development, while toys for girls encourage developing social intelligence.

The best that we can do for our girls to prepare them for success is to check our biases. We need to encourage girls to take active roles in STEM education experiences, even when they may be hesitant to try. We need to be mindful of how and what we praise girls for and how we provide them with feedback. Most importantly, we need our girls to see diverse examples of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers so that they know that being a girl in STEM is not an exception to the rule.

To learn more, or to register for the event, please visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

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