To help ensure that the next generation of researchers is as diverse as the topics they study, the UT chapter of the Society of Women Engineers hosted an event this past October to spark and nurture interest in STEM fields among high school girls.
Tomorrow’s Engineers Today brought together girls from around East Tennessee for a day exploring various aspects of STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—education and careers.
“It is our goal to give girls the confidence they need to pursue a career in a diverse and growing field,” said Maggie Fraser, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering. SWE reached out to local Girl Scout troops, spread the word on social media, and asked members to visit schools that they were familiar with.
The event was sponsored in part by Kingsport-based Eastman.
Studies from the White House and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have shown that the number of STEM-based careers grew three times faster than in other areas over the past decade, with the added benefit that the average STEM worker makes 33 percent more than comparable employees in other fields.
While those statistics show the growing importance of STEM careers to the nation’s economy, the disproportionate representation of genders in such fields is cause for concern.
For example, the US Census Bureau revealed that women made up almost half the workforce but only a quarter of the workers in STEM-related fields.
That’s an eye-opening difference that groups like Fraser’s hope to change for the better.
“Careers in STEM continue to be in high demand,” said Fraser. “We want to create an environment where girls are comfortable asking questions about high school, college, and beyond.”
At the UT event, students were able to take part in experiments that ranged from extracting DNA from a strawberry to building rockets and towers, and spend the day among current UT students representing the various departments, which gives them a chance to talk to people in the fields that pique their interest.
Engineering lecturer Rachel McCord gave students tours of the engineering fundamentals labs.
Parents were invited to attend a special half-day event—held at the same time—to learn about ways they can help their children succeed.