The fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics are home to some of the most lucrative, in-demand employers in the world. Women and girls, however, are underrepresented across these sectors, and that inequality begins in education.

Beginning early

In order to advance equity in education for women and girls, the American Association of University Women developed a daylong event to encourage girls from the sixth to ninth grades to pursue education in STEM fields. The program, called “Tech Savvy,” helped reinforce the aspirations and goals of three girls: Swetha, Tomisin and Lily. Each of these students remembers either the class or the person that inspired them to pursue STEM education. Now these young women want to encourage other girls to do the same.

After participating in the program, fifteen-year-old Swetha Shankar from Technical High School hopes that “more girls will realize that a career in STEM is okay for them to do, and it is not just a man’s field.”

“More girls will realize that a career in STEM is okay for them to do, and it is not just a man’s field.”

The future of STEM

Swetha realized her passion for science and helping others when she was in the seventh grade. “I could help many people,” she said, “by discovering vaccines or helping solve the global warming crisis.” Swetha particularly admires Elizabeth Blackwell, “because she endured so many difficulties being the first woman doctor in the U.S. Because of this, she paved the way for other women to do jobs outside of the traditional roles.”

Thirteen-year-old Tomisin Ajayi attends South Junior High School in St. Cloud, Minn., and is already working toward becoming an astronomical or aeronautical engineer. Tomisin is most interested in engineering because of the “endless possibilities” and the opportunity to “create solutions to problems.” Tomisin was first inspired after reading about the U.S. rocket fuel scientist, Mary Sherman Morgan. 

Interested in learning more about astronomy, Lily Weitzel was first encouraged to pursue STEM by her fifth grade teacher. “Science interests me most because it is always fun experimenting and learning new things,” she says. “I hope more girls will be interested in STEM over the years because I think it’s really fun and important.”