Helping Close the Gap for Women in STEM Careers: 2017 JA Girls Dream Fair Inspires the Next Generation

Dream Fair 2017 participants

The statistics make it clear, the number of young women competing in this industry has been decreasing at an alarming rate for the past 30 years.

We all see it. In a report from PBS on April 17,2015 ‘Men greatly outweigh women in every STEM (‘Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math’) career.’ Even though women are equally capable, they are not choosing to pursue these careers which is causing an imbalanced playing field. Until that happens, there is a gap.

Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes (‘JA’) has set out to do something to address this gap with an event called the JA Girls Dream Fair.

In August 2011, the U.S. Department of Commerce has reported that with ‘52% of the population being women, only 19% are entering the STEM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) field.’ The leadership of Junior Achievement asked themselves ‘How can we intentionally help the women see a future of STEM leadership?

And we all believe community organizations like Junior Achievement and corporate organizations like CQL share some responsibility to make that happen. For organizations like CQL, we have been working daily to reverse this trend, as we understand the importance of women in creating innovation, great software and ecommerce platforms.

In a January 30, 2017 article, Forbes said, ‘diverse teams outperform non-diverse ones by 35%.’ We see every day what research has been telling us.

How can we redefine the future of women in STEM careers and close the gap between genders to promote innovation through culture, background, experiences and personalities?

For starters, it is important to bring awareness to this problem. We can all help by getting involved in events like the annual Junior Achievement Girls Dream Fair. Approximately three hundred 7th and 8th grade girls from the Michigan Lake Shore communities are brought together for this dynamic event to provide an opportunity for these young women to be encouraged to pursue a STEM career. The goal is to empower young women that they can have a great career in STEM, and for them not to ‘close the door’ on STEM as an option.

The hope of the March 2017 event was to help these young ladies start career planning at an early age so they are prepared for any stigmas or biases they might encounter pursuing a career in STEM. The Dream Fair accomplished this by having more than fifty women from established careers in technology participating as mentors to the girls, and talking with them about their career journey experiences.

The event kicked off with three prominent speakers discussing their journey from 8th grade to where they are currently in their STEM career. The girls were able to listen and comprehend their success stories. The event helped them to imagine themselves in a similar STEM career, and not neglect the possibility of that future. After the speakers, the students split into groups of 30 led by 4-5 STEM professionals to provide an opportunity for intimate discussion and questions. These groups worked through a variety of Junior Achievement curriculum for creating a personal brand, planning a career, and other important elements of finding the right job.

Following the breakout sessions there was time for students to build connections and collaborate on some of the things they had learned throughout the day.

‘…the data suggests that many girls at this age eliminate STEM careers for a variety of reasons, many of which are the result of a lack of knowledge of what careers are available, and the benefits of these careers. By matching girls with successful women, it is our hope to inspire the girls to investigate more.’ Mark Lardieri, President of CQL & JA Board Chair for the Girls Dream Fair event

Creating a wave of a new generation of women STEM leaders, workers and inventors.

As Lardieri said, ‘CQL’s community involvement tried to focus on critical needs. In this case, the lack of female participation in STEM, and the lack of enough individuals to fill the demand for STEM workers are addressed in this event. If more women get involved in STEM careers, the demand gap for workers can be greatly diminished.’

One way to decrease the STEM worker shortage is to get more women into the field. Our hope is as a Technology company; we can collaborate through the JA Girls Dream Fair to help provide:

  • Exposure
  • Self- esteem
  • Willingness to Learn
  • Motivation
  • Desire to not follow the norm

If you…like all of us at CQL are interested in working together to create driven, go-getting, achieving and open minded young individuals that can and will be the future of technology, let us know. Junior Achievement plans to run a Grand Rapids-based Girls Dream Fair event in September 2017, followed by a future event in Lansing, MI.

Possibilities are endless. Society is moving, technology is evolving and so is young women’s involvement in STEM careers.

Empower the next generation, make your impact and work as a team.

Reach out to CQL, we are creating opportunities for innovation, software engineering and ecommerce experts.

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