Participants in the Engineering Girls – It Takes A Village program in 2013. (Photo Credit: Lily Gossage/CSULB)
California is home to Silicon Valley and thousands of other computer and industrial engineering positions. For that reason, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education has become imperative for young students to learn in order to keep the state economy competitive. One of the key ideas is getting young women actively involved in STEM education through both traditional and non-traditional methods.
Women make up just over half of the state’s population, but still remain only 10 percent of the engineering profession. The goal of organizations such as the California State University at Long Beach (CSULB) ‘Women-In-Engineering Outreach Program’ has been to expand STEM education so that it’s not only more reflective of the population, but also boosts economic opportunity.
“I recognize that while women contribute vastly to the economic growth, they have not yet achieved parity with men in terms of truly shaping the direction of the economy as entrepreneurs, especially within the STEM field,” said Lily Gossage, founder of the program.
Gossage, who is currently completing a Ph.D. in Higher Education, M.A. in Cross-cultural Teaching, and holds an M.Ed. in Educational Management and B.S. in Medical Microbiology with a Minor in Chemistry, would like more girls to be present within the STEM field. She also wants people in general to realize the tremendous opportunities offered by STEM careers.
“The great thing about STEM education is that it prepares students for one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the economy,” Gossage said. “Women have the ability to improve their own lives and potentially the world by pursuing STEM professions.”
Gossage’s statements are supported by data that says STEM education can lead both an enhanced quality of life and better job prospects. According to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the unemployment rate for STEM workers is .6% lower than college graduates who are trained in another discipline.
Additionally, income revenues for those employed in STEM fields are on average $18,000 more annually than non-STEM employees. The data translates to STEM grads earning 23 percent more than non-STEM grads during their lifetime.
The California STEM Learning Network (CSLN) released a report, High Stakes: STEM Education The Essential Ingredient for California Competitiveness, highlighting what needs to be done to enhance STEM education and how important it is to our future. Their four-part system includes: inspiring, engaging, educating and employing as the stepping stones toward sustaining future economic prosperity for California.
The report states the high-growth aerospace sector alone employs an approximate 600,000 people in high-paying jobs spread throughout 6,000 California companies. California employs 18 percent of the nation’s technical workforce. But, with around 45 percent of today’s science and engineering workforce retiring within the next few years, the need for growth is urgent.
In many ways, Gossage’s Women-In-Engineering Outreach Program represents the first three actions in CSLN’s recommendations for growing the STEM workforce.
“In order to see advancements happen in our society, we have to create interest in STEM education and then cultivate that interest,” Gossage said. “To truly grow STEM education, we have to show girls that it’s an option.”
Gossage’s program will be having two events in the near future to do just that.
The first, the “Engineering Girls Internship” is a one-week summer program at CSULB that serves high-achieving 8th grade girls. It coordinates NASA education with laboratory experience to demonstrate work done by professional engineers and scientists dealing with space exploration. The internship is June 22 through June 28.
The second is the annual one-week residential program, “Engineering Girls – It Takes A Village.” The program is geared towards elementary school girls and parents who are residents at the Villages at Cabrillo, a supported-housing complex in Long Beach, CA. Included in the week are a series of workshops on different aspects of STEM education as well as field trips to the Columbia Memorial Space Center and Long Beach City College. The program takes place early-August 2014.
Innovative partnerships that build up the state’s workforce in high-growth fields like STEM and career technical education jobs, a top priority of the Workforce Action Team of the California Economic Summit, have hugely important effects, not just for California’s regional economies, but also for the students’ confidence and careers.
“Investing in young girls for STEM education goes beyond the broader discussion of gender equality and breaking down stereotypes,” Gossage said. “The major goal for inspiring young girls to pursue STEM professions includes the idea of reassuring young women that they can be leaders and have the power to affect economic change.”