Summit to Open Doors for Young Girls Passionate About the STEMs

By Brendan Clogston

Women continue to be underrepresented in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, holding less than a quarter of these lucrative positions. In the hopes of combating this disparity, nonprofits Biogen Idec and Jr. Tech will host their annual Girls STEM Summit in April, inviting 120 8-12th graders to MIT to explore their passion for the sciences and discover career possibilities within the STEM fields.

The one day summit will spotlight STEM careers and closing the wage gap between the sexes. It will feature workshops, speakers and face-to-face time with experts in various STEM fields.

The event will begin with a talk by keynote speaker Jo Viney, vice president of Immunology Research at Biogen Idec. The attendees will then rotate through six different career track stations representing different aspects of engineering and the sciences, where they will learn from experts in the represented fields and participate in hands-on workshops “to get a little taste of what that career might be like,” according to Deborah Vogt, marketing consultant for Jr. Tech. For instance, a previous summit featured a civil engineering station in which attendees helped to build mini suspension bridge.

“The girls go through all six” said Vogt. “They don’t get to pick and choose; we want them to be exposed, because often times when they fill out the surveys when they leave, what they’re interested in when they leave is not what they thought they were interested in when they arrived. It really exposes them to go beyond the things they’re currently interested in.”

“It’s an early day and a long day for these girls, but we make it fun,” she continued. “When they leave, the surveys we get back from them are all capital letters and exclamation points, things underlined. … going on about how much they learned, how much they want to come to come back.”

Four of the six career tracks have been confirmed at this time, including veterinarian medicine, emergency room medicine, biosciences/biopharmaceutical, and bioscience and research for consumer goods.

The program has been particularly championed by Don Pinkerton of Revere High. Seven students from Revere High will attend the event, more than any other school which did not previously reserve space. Many of the Revere attendees are being sponsored by scholarships.

Despite making up half the workforce, women have been historically underrepresented in the STEM fields, holding less than 25 percent of all STEM jobs according to a US Department of Commerce study. For every dollar that men make in STEM fields, women make 86 cents on average. Stark as that gap is, however, it is considerably smaller than the 21 percent gap found in non-STEM occupations.

The Girls STEM Summit-East will be held on Saturday, April 26 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the Stratton Student Center at MIT, 84 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge. Enrollment fees are $45. For more information, visit www.juniortech.org.