Editor’s Note: To highlight the work of innovative K12 STEM education programs and educators around the country, we invite guest posts contributed by #STEMNOW leaders. This is the second in our series.
Nimisha Ghosh Roy is the Program Manager for FabFems, a project that facilitates important connections between young women and STEM female professionals during critical transition points in career pathways. She recently worked with young women at an underwater LEGO robotics camp in Seattle, WA.
Here at the FabFems Project, we believe role models and mentors are essential; they dispel stereotypes and demonstrate to young women what it looks like when you successfully follow your passions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Our work, and that of our colleagues engaged in the #STEMNOW conversation, is critical: women today remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, making up a mere 27% of the sector, according to STEMConnector in a 2013 report. However, when girls have approachable role models (women in STEM who see their work as rewarding, relevant, and enjoyable), their impression of what it means to be a STEM professional can change dramatically and they are more likely to pursue STEM courses and careers.
We have established a national, online directory of more than 250 women in STEM who are inspiring role models for girls. They are passionate about their work and motivated to inspire girls to pursue STEM careers. Our free directory is used by parents, young women and girls of all ages, and staff of girl-serving groups looking to connect with local women in STEM for field trip participation, in-school visits, job shadowing, online role modeling, summer camp visits, and more.
One of our FabFems in Massachusetts recently spent a day with a junior in college who contacted her after reading her FabFems profile. Afterwards, our FabFem told us, “She [the student] feels much more confident that there are fun and exciting jobs out there if she majors in Materials Science and Engineering.” Another FabFem who volunteered at a Girl Scouts event in California reported back, “The event I participated in helped me realize I can reach people beyond my immediate vicinity.”
And that is our goal: supporting women and encouraging them to reach beyond, to expand their community and share their knowledge, resources, and passion to a new generation of scientists, engineers, technologists, and mathematicians.
We launched in 2011 with support from the Motorola Solutions Foundation and the National Science Foundation, and we have seen tremendous growth and interest in the FabFems Project since then. Earlier this year the FabFems Project collaborated with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and other key partners to provide a day-long professional development training for federal workers in Washington, D.C.In the coming year, we will be working hard to encourage more women to become role models and connecting them with role modeling opportunities in their community. We will be recruiting FabFems from all sectors of STEM – veterans and mid-career professionals, as well as students and interns who have completed high school and are just beginning their STEM careers. You can be a role model at any age, and we can all use role models and mentors regardless of where we are in our careers.
Tell all the women you know about www.fabfems.org. Encourage them to share their past and spark a future. Encourage them to be a part of the #STEMNOW conversation.