Miami working to connect high school girls to STEM professionals

The best way to get high school girls more interested in STEM careers is to get them together with women already established in the science, technology, engineering fields.

That was the motivation behind Miami University’s Careers Involving Quantitative Skills (CIQS) day earlier this week that saw more than 100 teenage girls from Butler County and Greater Cincinnati high schools on Miami’s Oxford campus.

The annual event is designed to expose female students to same-sex role models in STEM careers and among those teaching at Miami.

The wide variety of informative and interactive sessions “introduces young women to all of the opportunities and careers opened by strong quantitative skills,” said John Bailer, Miami University chair of the department of statistics.

“Hands-on sessions are led by professionals from different sectors including water scientists from the Greater Cincinnati Water Works and Ohio EPA along with Miami faculty members from biology, geology, neuroscience, psychology, sports analytics and the Center for Analytics and Data Science,” said Bailer.

“Activities ranged from treating cloudy water to learning about facial recognition software to humanitarian mapping for disaster relief to neuroscience and learning,” he said.

Nationwide the efforts to expose more girls to STEM careers has been a stable of American K-12 education the last decade but results have been mixed.

Locally, public school districts in Butler County have changed curricula in an attempt to include more STEM instructional practices they believe will capture the interests of girls.

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A 2019 survey by the national Junior Achievement organization finds a recent dip in the level of interest of girls toward possibly pursuing STEM careers.

According to the Junior Achievement’s website, “9 percent of girls between ages of 13 and 17 are interested in careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). This is down from 11 percent from a similar survey in 2018.”

“The decline of interest in STEM careers is disappointing given how much emphasis is being placed on promoting STEM to girls,” said Jack Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “One element that may need to be emphasized more is ensuring that STEM professionals are serving as role models and working with girls in educational settings as part of these initiatives.”

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That has been the goal of Miami’s event and Emma Morrish, a sophomore at Talawanda High School, said it worked.

“All the sessions were beneficial and it really helped to be with an adult in a possible future career I might be interested in,” said Morrish.

“This (event) helps because at your high school there may not be a person who has knowledge of a career. These events are important for young women because you don’t necessarily thin of women being in these type of careers,” she said.

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