DeVry University first held HerWorld to empower high school girls to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). From grassroots, campus-driven events happening in a handful of communities, now, more than 15 years later, HerWorld is a university-wide effort held during the month of March. HerWorld introduces and inspires thousands of high school girls each year about STEM through interactive workshops and by learning the story of other women in STEM careers.
MO: Why has DeVry University and HerWorld chosen to focus resources on helping young women in grades 9-12 to get inspired and grow their interest in the core areas of STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math?
DeVry University HerWorld: It is projected that job opportunities in STEM will grow more than 7 percent faster than job opportunities in non-STEM fields through 2018. However, despite this positive employment outlook, women hold less than one quarter of STEM positions today. By encouraging more women to pursue STEM careers, we can help bridge the skills gap and increase diversity in STEM workplaces.
MO: In what ways does HerWorld leverage technology to bring the STEM message to more girls?
DeVry University HerWorld: Technology is a focal point at HerWorld events. The HerWorld presentation includes information about technology and guest speakers highlight technology in their speeches, explaining to the young girls the importance it holds in a STEM career path. In addition, each event includes a hands-on workshop where the girls use technology to aid in the assembly of something such as a robot, night light or FM Radio Transmitter. The hands-on workshops are typically the highlight of the event for most girls. It is during these workshops that they begin to see the intersection of STEM education and a possible career path.
MO: March is National HerWorld month with more than 40 HerWorld events across the country. Are their events going on during the other months of the year, or do you put all of the HerWorld focus on producing the March events each year?
DeVry University HerWorld: While our focus on STEM continues year round, most HerWorld events take place during National HerWorld month – March. This year, there are 23 local events taking place across the country beginning March 1 in Fresno and ending April 5 in St. Louis. On March 8, DeVry University hosted a national event in New York City that featured this year’s HerWorld spokesperson, Mayim Bialik. Bialik stars on CBS’ “Big Bang Theory” and holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Neuroscience. Every HerWorld event features a guest panel and distinguished speakers from STEM fields. These women succeeding in real world STEM careers are great examples of the kind of career path high school girls can pursue through STEM education. Additionally, our STEMReady website is helping make both students and educators more aware of STEM education and careers.
MO: As part of HerWorld events, participants get to hear stories of real women in STEM occupations. Has this been an effective means to inspire and grow interest?
DeVry University HerWorld: HerWorld is a great opportunity for high school girls to see what is possible with a STEM education. The girls get to hear successful role models speak about how STEM has opened doors for them in their careers. The speakers are great female role models for the students. Role models and mentors are important to cultivating girls’ interest in STEM fields. The successful female scientists, engineers, and technologists represented by the Keynote, panelists, guest speakers and DeVry University volunteers served as great role models for the high school students.
There is a growing STEM skills gap in the United States, and it is directly related to insufficient numbers of students enrolling in STEM-related education programs.1 Many companies that have STEM related openings cannot fill these positions because the workforce is currently not qualified.1 The high school women who participate in HerWorld walk away with a new interest in STEM and a greater understanding of the unique career opportunities available in STEM fields.
MO: HerWorld has an impressive list of corporate partners such as Microsoft, Cisco, and Deloitte. How have these companies contributed to the success and growth of HerWorld initiatives?
DeVry University HerWorld: HerWorld often hosts guest speakers from DeVry’s corporate partners. Having speakers from these high-profile companies is a great way for participating high school girls to see what is possible with a STEM career. The speakers make the career opportunities come to life. Hearing a real life success story is better than any statistic or PowerPoint slide we can provide. When a high school girl sees a successful woman with a STEM career working at a company like Microsoft, it makes the possibility of a STEM career a reality. High school girls see that they have the potential to be successful in a STEM career just like the women speaking to them.
1 United States must address potential STEM skills gap Web. 18 March 2013. <http://www.teksystems.com/resources/teksavvy-blog/2013/February/united-states-must-address-potential-stem-skills-gap>
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