Women in today’s U.S. economy fill up more than 57 percent of the workforce but there is less than 25 percent who are in STEM related jobs. There is currently a stigma that girls can’t “naturally” be driven in the demanding disciplines of mathematics therefore girls think that STEM related careers are not the path for them. The College of Central Florida (CF) says the exact opposite. CF received a Progress Energy Foundation Grant, which allows them to offer energy and engineering related workshops for secondary and post-secondary teacher and faculty. The October workshop, with a turnout of over 40 attendees, focused on recruiting women and minorities interested in the STEM fields as well as writing grants to help achieve these goals.
The Florida Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence (FLATE) presented at the workshop with a productive PowerPoint presentation. FLATE’s presentation was all about recruiting girls. One part of the presentation was to show how to help girls identify their interests and help them translate their interests into a career. Another section of the PowerPoint showed skills like writing, critical thinking, and mathematics are skills that can help students achieve their goals in the STEM field. Another part showed current STEM role models and how they ended up today. Dr. Betty Hackmyer, who worked with FLATE this past summer for the Ocala FLATE robotics camps, gave a mini-grant workshop focusing on writing grants for STEM education that are accessible for teachers. We hope to hear soon that one of the attendees was able to submit a successful grant mini-proposal.
One other speaker at the workshop was a University of Florida (UF) graduate who is currently an electrical engineer in Ocala, Florida and spoke to the attendees about how she got to where she is today. She is not only in graduate school at UF but is also an engineer for a startup company. She is from a small town in China and talked about her journey of breaking barriers to be a female engineer. Dr. Kevin Cooper, Director of Advanced Technology at Indian River State College, talked about how to get students interested in math and other STEM areas and translate that into a career. Diana Scroggie, the College of Central Florida Progress Energy Grant Coordinator and workshop organizer, wanted the workshop “to provide the type of programming that helps us better prepare incoming students for CF and other institutions. It helps us prepare teachers who prepare the students and in return help students make good choices choosing degree programs that will grow and create diverse population for careers down the road.”
There was great feedback on the event. Many attendees thought that the material at the workshop was useful and willing to use in their own program. Some of indicated that they will be using the FLATE website as a resource. Several attendees stated that they would like Dr. Barger and Dr. Cooper to address their students. Survey results show that the attendees’ wanting to spend more time to encourage students to seek their interest in mathematics shows the workshop’s impact. Scroggie said, “At the end of the day, these students have heard all the speakers and fabulous ideas about recruiting and STEM, that Dr. Barger and Dr. Hackmyer showed them how to pay for it.”
The State of Florida has the third largest population in country, with an official 2020 estimate of 21.5 million persons and approximately 58% of the population is in the civilian labor force (12,600,000).