Bridging the Gender Gap in STEM One Step at a Time
May 3, 2022
Girls Inc. Eureka! is a five-year program for girls interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Each month during the school year, participants in grades 8-12 come together the second Saturday of the month for their Eureka! meeting. Each time they dive into a different topic ranging from financial literacy to neuroscience to healthy relationships.
During their March meeting, they celebrated Women in Construction Week 2022, where they welcomed guests from Mortenson Construction to share about their industry, career pathways and more. Mortenson is a family-owned construction company that started 67 years ago. They have twelve regional offices – including one here in Minnesota – and serve communities all over the country. Youth learned about civil engineering, solar energy and wind energy.
Exploring Careers with Eureka!
One of the goals with bringing in Eureka! program partners like Mortenson is to expose youth to a wide variety of careers that they might not otherwise learn about. Did you know there are many ways to get involved in construction?
Interested in leadership? Try construction management!
Interested in ecology or botany? Become an environmental specialist in construction!
Interested in engineering? Study civil engineering and sustainability to work as a project engineer!
Our presenters definitely ignited a spark in our Eurekans. Here is what they had to say:
“Because of what I learned today I am now interested in a career as a person who builds windmills.” – Lily, 8th Grade Eurekan
“One thing I learned was not very many women have this job. Because of what I learned today, I am now interested in a career as a mechanical engineer.” – Kaya, 8th grade Eurekan
“I was able to get a much better understanding of how a big company like Mortenson works, and get an idea of what a vibrant and close work community looks like.” – Lilia, 10th grade Eurekan
Learning Opportunities, Problem Solving and More!
Women in Construction Week was started in 1953 by 16 women in Texas as a way to celebrate the initiatives and accomplishments of women in the construction industry. Only 10-11% of workers in this industry are female. Outreach work of companies like Mortenson and programs like Eureka! strive to change that. Participants learned about pathways to construction careers – from a trade school to project management to industrial technology. After the presentation, the youth broke out into groups to deep dive in learning about ground-bearing pressure, building a wind turbine and solar currents!
Bridging the Gender Gap in STEM
Events like this are essential to expose girls and nonbinary youth to new career possibilities and positive role models in STEM industries. Women make up only 28 percent of the workforce in STEM. For women of color, this percentage is even smaller. Gender stereotypes, fewer women role models and the male-dominated culture of STEM classes, programs and workplaces are all barriers girls face when pursuing their interests in these fields.
YWCA Minneapolis’ Girls Inc. Eureka! program is a first of its kind in the Twin Cities, designed to help nurture young girls’ interests in STEM fields while supporting them through high school graduation and preparing them for the next steps in their post-secondary education.