FORT COLLINS — While retaining girls in science, technology, engineering, and math — disciplines where women are vastly underrepresented — is a global challenge, one group is emphasizing skills not taught in the STEM classroom. Such skills — how to advocate for oneself, communicate one’s value, and request a mentor — are examples of what girls ages 13-18 will see in action on Oct. 14 at “Secrets of STEAM Success.”
“Secrets of STEAM Success,” scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Ginger and Baker, 359 Linden St. in Fort Collins, coincides with this year’s Ada Lovelace Day celebration and is presented by the nonprofit group Pretty Brainy. Pretty Brainy’s girl-centered approach encourages registrants to “bring your bestie.” A girl and her friend can sign up together for the price of one, or $20, through Sept 30. Scholarship awards are available, according to a press statement from the group.
The event connects girls with professionals who will share skills and expectations taken for granted and not communicated to young people. Girls need these soft skills, according to the American Association of University Women, in addition to STEM. The event includes networking and brunch with professionals in an environment where girls can practice their skills.
“Schools are not teaching this [information],” Madeleine Boyles, a second-year undergraduate at Colorado State University, said in a written statement. Boyles, who created a coding and creativity class for middle school students when she was in high school, will be among the mentors guiding girls through the experience Oct. 14.
STEM professionals on hand include Judith Olson, senior physicist at ColdQuanta, a quantum technology company headquartered in Boulder. One of few women executives at ColdQuanta, Olson is not only an expert in quantum physics, she has also witnessed the barriers and gender biases in STEM.
Pretty Brainy chose Oct. 14 because it marks the global celebration of Ada Lovelace. Regarded as the first computer programmer, Lovelace was determined to learn math growing up in the early 19th century when her tutor declared that her mind was not up to the subject. The notion that “girls can’t do math” persists.
Pretty Brainy, a nonprofit organization founded in Fort Collins, introduced its first girls after-school program in 2013.
The number of women in STEM professions has risen 6% in 30 years, according to the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. Women make up just 29% of the STEM workforce, despite years of learning interventions in K-12 education.