Encouraging girls in STEM
November 28, 2017 at 1:25 PM
CEO, Evolve Systems
Earlier this month, the Science Museum of Minnesota hosted the Girls, Science, and Technology event. At SPDP & Solutions, we see a unique opportunity, as a supplier of manufactured goods, to join others in encouraging girls to learn about and pursue the great opportunities offered in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. For our blog this month I interviewed, Marnie Ochs-Raleigh, CEO of Evolve Systems. Marnie and her team are “…changing the future of technology through internet application development, design and branding, integrated customer solutions, digital marketing and payment systems.” She is also a longtime member and past president of the Minnesota chapter of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners).
1. You're a uniquely positioned as a mom with daughters and a WBO of a tech company. How did you get your girls interested in STEM?
My girls have grown up having a Mom as a WBO in technology and in my attempt of blending family and business, they have been brought to many after hour meetings, or have sat in the room during meetings while I had to multi-task.
At home, we purposely talk about the “cool” things we are creating for our clients and show them the progress our teams have made in programming the next greatest project or idea and involve them in celebrating the success. Their interest has been created out of celebration, rather than status norm.
We frequently have told our daughters that times are changing, and they need to be smart enough to support themselves and needed to select a career choice that would provide the lifestyle they have grown up with. STEM was always an option since the field continues to demand smart, ambitious, and confident people. We wanted to focus their natural skill sets on something they would be happy with for a lifetime, and have excellent job stability.
2. Statistics show the further along girls go in education the greater the numbers are who drop out of STEM classes. What suggestions do you have for other parents trying to keep the fire ignited?
STEM classes are historically filled with more men than women. The class members are often labeled as nerds or geeks and are bullied by the “cool” kids in the school. I think parents need to have different conversations with their kids and remind them to follow their passions rather than the social norm at their school. We challenge our girls to be the leaders in the classroom and to find other “cool” kids to bring with them on their journey of learning. STEM is cool!
Parents, empower your girls to use their strengths and paint a much larger picture than the small community of high school they are currently active in. I believe kids are aware of how large our World is more so today because of social media, but they still can fall into the trap of believing the social norms of high school relationships are their future.
Teachers are extremely influential in keeping a high level of interest in STEM, make sure to be reaching out to the school and have a pulse on what the learning objective is for the semester. I have gone so far as to research the curriculum in school and then found a local business that produces the items the kids were working in the lab for and scheduled a field trip for my daughters to see a real-life situation in practice. Making it real is the significant difference.
3. STEM in our schools has come a long way in even just the past five years. From your experiences what would you add to and or change to encourage more involvement from girls?
I would encourage your daughters to blaze their own paths. To watch TED talks and see where the future truly is and to embrace it. Often, we joke that the cure for cancer is around the corner and they are smart enough to figure it out. Don’t limit their thinking patterns or settle for what is normal. Push the normal to exceed current standards. It should be every parent's goal to set their children up to be a bigger success than we are. Finding mentors in the area of interest is critical in showing them there is a path and it is obtainable.
Girls think differently than boys do. One is not better than the other but, with teamwork, amazing results can be discovered. Encourage the students to push boundaries and never settle for the social norm, they can always find a way to be better.
4. What do you feel are the two most important initiatives employers and schools can utilize to create more inclusivity for women within the tech world?
There are some great organizations supporting Women in Tech, several local groups affiliated with the Universities and multiple businesses that promote the awareness of Women in Tech, as well as some great TED talk videos discussing the differences women make in organizations focused in STEM.
As parents we have fallen short in believing it is the school's responsibility to set our children up for a successful future, it is the parent's responsibility to find the right “tribe” to help foster a learning environment for our kids to be successful. We need to teach our kids to be respectful to its elders and to dream big. There are so many people willing to help if you just ask!