Encouraging STEM #5: Create Partnerships

This is the final installment of a series by Carrie Rogers-Whitehead based on her article, “5 ways to advocate for women in STEM,” with an in-depth look at each point. Be sure to check out the previous installments!

 

We are stronger together.

The phrase “it takes a village” is true when encouraging women in education and careers, particularly STEM.  Creating partnerships between organizations and individuals provides the opportunity for real influence.

K-12 Schools
“If girls get turned off by science in elementary and middle school they usually don’t circle back,” says Carol Mallett, a STEAM specialist working with K-8, who feels that the introduction needs to be early, as well as “fun, interesting and captivating.”

For example, Mallet procured the blueprints of a building in New York so that her students, whom she called “architects” during the process, could color the building and then built it with magnet blocks. She regularly refers to her students as  “scientists,” “artists,” and “engineers” on their projects to help them visualize their future careers. She has brought in high school students as mentors and looks to include adult mentors as well. By incorporating older youth and adults, as well as various types of sciences in her projects, Mallett hopes to show her students that the possibilities are wide and varied.


College
At the college level, professors and advisors can encourage women to pursue STEM fields by involving them early and getting them out of the classroom. Laura Dickey, a postdoctoral fellow researching neurological disease at the University of Utah, suggested:

“Get them in the lab studying cures for neurodegenerative disease, in the field tracking bird migration, or on the river studying pollutant levels. Get them programming robots, calculating boundary equations for minimal surfaces or using bioinformatics to assess disease risk.
This kind of direct exposure not only helps students discover areas of research they’re passionate about but also helps them explore potential career options.

In addition to support from professors and advisors, women should seek out nonprofits and organizations, like MESA or the Society of Women Engineers, which offer opportunities and support for women pursuing STEM fields.


Career
Women in STEM careers benefit from partnering organization, as well as individual mentorship and support. We all benefit from a multidisciplinary approach on projects. I saw the power of this myself recently. In my work with the Salt Lake County Library, I was involved in a collaborative project for October’s Teen Read Month. Teens participating in a “Meme Caption Contest” have the chance to win a college savings plan. By myself, this project never would have happened. It involved:

  • graphic designers and web designers collaborating on a website
  • programmers to develop the code for the contest
  • public relations and communications people to push out the finished product


If we don’t look outside our classroom or cubicle, we will be missing out on the chance to make great projects and important connections happen. We can have a profound influence on others, we are stronger together.


 Carrie Rogers-Whitehead is a senior librarian with Salt Lake County Library, teaches at Salt Lake Community College, and is a regular contributor at KSL.com. She holds a Masters in Library and Information Science and Masters in Public Administration and is passionate about women’s education. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her preschool son and husband. Contact her at rogers-whitehead@hotmail.com

 


For More Info Check Out:

Encouraging STEM #1: Make Women Visible
Encouraging STEM #2: Find Role Models
Encouraging STEM #3: Create a Safe Environment
Encouraging STEM #4: Reframe the Conversation

STEM education resources from the Utah STEM Action Center
Utah Women & STEM Education Network‘s events, program information, and resources on Pinterest
The UWEI Research & Policy Brief: Utah Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics)