Advice from trailblazers and strategies to elevate the role of women in science.
Astronaut Kathryn Sullivan, the first woman to walk in space, shared that in college she was “forced” to take two science courses. This revelation shocked the more than 400 attendees of the Fall convening of the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice, held in Cleveland, OH in October 2019.
Within just a few weeks, Sullivan’s dread transformed into a love and passion for science, when she realized that science is a meaningful and fascinating journey of “inquiry and personal discovery.”
Sullivan was one of several women recognized for their contributions to the field, a testament to “Women Living STEM” at the Fall convening. Others notable women honored included:
- Ruth Begun, Former NASA Physicist
- Dr. Jeanette Grasselli Brown, Retired Director of Corporate Research in Analytical and Environmental Sciences at BP America, Inc.
- Frances Seiberling Buchholzer, Retired Geomorphologist and Current Biomimicry Advocate
- Margot James Copeland, Retired Chair and CEO at KeyBank Foundation
- Clara Rankin, Philanthropist
- Helen Williams, PhD, Program Director, Education at Cleveland Foundation
Sullivan and others were recognized to demonstrate the important contributions of women to the field, with a particular emphasis on the Northeast Ohio region. The event was a nod to the great accomplishments of women in STEM overall and served as an important reminder for the need to create and encourage pathways for more girls and women to enter STEM professions.
Statistics from the National Science Foundation (2018) about girls and women in STEM amplify this need:
- Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 28% of the science and engineering workforce.
- Female scientists and engineers are concentrated in different occupations than are men, with relatively high shares of women in the social sciences (60%) and biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences (48%) and relatively low shares in engineering (15%) and computer and mathematical sciences (26%).
In addition to recognizing Women Living STEM, the Cleveland convening also saluted Girls Living STEM, highlighting the tremendous accomplishments of young women across the nation.
The STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice continues to provide tools for communities and spotlight best practices to encourage more girls to pursue math and science.
In the words of Kathleen Sullivan, “We need to begin providing them (young women) those first muscle-flexing experiences of inquiry and discover in classrooms and school rooms where they spend so much of their lives so that they can begin to accelerate through the pathway of life faster than I did.”