For the past few years, there has been a strong focus on encouraging women to pursue careers in science and mathematics. Indeed, a recent post highlights the challenges and rewards of being a woman scientist. There is unanimous agreement that should be a stronger push towards supporting women pursuing STEM careers. But how can this support be provided? In this post, I highlight a collaborative effort between the Expanding Your Horizons network and UC Berkeley to encourage middle school girls to explore scientific careers.
The Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) network, a national not-for-profit organization, is approaching this problem by starting early. The network's mission is to "encourage young women to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers". To do so, the EYH network organizes hands-on workshops for middle and high-school girls. The motivation behind providing this age group the hands-on scientific experience is so that they can be exposed to the various aspects of STEM careers.
Recently, the EYH Berkeley chapter organized a one-day conference with hands-on workshops for school students. The event was organized mainly by UC Berkeley graduate students and postdocs. The Berkeley EYH is a 'Sponsored Project' of the EYH Network. There were many different themes for the workshops, spanning robotics, physics, DNA databanks and forensics and geology. By providing a broad swath of subject areas, the organizers ensured that the participants would have at least one or two workshops that would pique their interest. In all, 252 students participated and the event was led by 52 workshop leaders. Additionally, there were 110 volunteers that helped the participants navigate the conference.
Funds for the event were obtained mainly through support from the local industry and businesses. The conference was a huge success on many fronts. It met the EYH goal of fostering interest in school girls towards mathematics and science and encouraging them to explore their options. The participants had an enjoyable and rewarding day exploring different fields. But, to those of us who organized the event, it was one of the more rewarding experiences in recent times. It is easy to get stuck in the lab and focus on one's research and only communicate within your research circle. But how do you reach across and communicate science with the broader world? The UC Berkeley EYH event allowed graduate student and post-doc organizers to think about these aspects as we organized, and re-organized the program events.
Visit their website for more information about the EYH network or to find a local chapter.