CINCINNATI — If participation numbers for this year’s STEM Girls Day Out event are any indication, local girls heading into science, technology, engineering and math careers are hitting the ground running.
Hundreds of female students in grades 4-12 from across Greater Cincinnati will explore STEM careers in action today at a variety of local business sites during the annual half-day program. It has been hosted by Impact NKY, a foundation of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, for a few years. The program is still free and continues to be supported by a variety of local businesses and organizations, but there’s one thing that’s changed this year: the level of interest.
More than 300 girls have registered for the event this year compared to 49 in 2015. And the number of participating business sites has increased as well from seven to 13 this year, according to Tiffany Osborne, the chamber’s vice president of workforce.
That growth is good news for local girls — and the region.
“We are very excited,” Osborne said of the increased participation. Careers in fields that fall under the STEM umbrella are increasing, but women remain underrepresented in the STEM workforce. The most recent statistics released by the National Girls Collaborative Project show that women comprise 47 percent of the overall workforce but only 28 percent of the collective science and engineering workforce. The percentage of female engineers is particularly low – only about 13 percent of the engineers in the U.S. are women.
“It is so important that these young ladies are exposed to STEM career opportunities and see women in those positions,” she said in a statement announcing the event.
While girls and boys do not significantly differ in their abilities in mathematics and science at the K-12 level, they do differ in their interest and confidence in STEM subjects, further data show. In fact, the National Girls Collaborative Project estimates male students are over three times more likely to be interested in STEM majors and careers, compared to female students.
Events, like STEM Girls Day Out, are part of a regional – and national – push to help combat that, said Madhura Kulkarni, director of the Center for Integrative Natural Science and Mathematics (CINSAM) at Northern Kentucky University.
“Research shows that hands-on, real-world experiences in STEM are much more beneficial (for piquing students’ interest) than, say, working from a textbook in the classroom,” said Kulkarni, who helps lead the Northern Kentucky Regional Team of the Kentucky Girls STEM Collaborative.
NKU is one of the 13 sites to host the chamber's event this year, as well as Thomas More College and Gateway Community & Technical College. Local businesses, including Celanese, Duke Energy and Toyota are also hosting students.
They’ll provide tours, hands-on workshops and time for students to connect with professionals, especially women, currently in STEM positions. The girls will explore not just careers, but also college pathways.
In our global economy, programs like STEM Girls Day Out are critical to preparing a skilled workforce for the growing number of jobs in fields that fall under the STEM umbrella, according to Kulkarni.
Similar STEM events and day-camps designed specifically for female students have been held throughout the region this summer, and more and more organizations are working to get female students interested in existing STEM programs. For example, the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative, and partners, launched Summer of STEM this year. The initiative is focused on making STEM-related learning opportunities accessible to more students, especially those underrepresented and underserved in STEM fields.
The chamber will continue to host its STEM Girls Day Out event each summer. This year's event will be held from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. today. Click here for more details.