Inspiring Girls Through the Women in STEM Speaker Series

IF/THEN: An Initiative of Lyda Hill Philanthropies
The Carnegie Science Center is an IF/THEN Gender Equity Grant recipient. Twenty-six ASTC-member museums received funding to launch projects aimed at increasing the representation of women and gender minorities in STEM across their museums’ content. This grant program is supported by the IF/THEN Initiative, a national effort sponsored by Lyda Hill Philanthropies to inspire young girls to pursue STEM careers while creating a culture shift in how the world perceives women in STEM.

The mission of Carnegie Science Center, part of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is to delight, educate, and inspire through interactive experiences in science and technology. Because of this goal to offer inspiration and serve as a trusted voice of science, this museum—and all science museums—have the responsibility to address inequities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and help all people explore futures in STEM fields.

According to the U.S. National Science Foundation, women make up only 28% of the science and engineering workforce, even though they comprise half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce. Additionally, in 2015, NSF also reported that 67% of workers in science and engineering occupations were white. With the above responsibility and statistics in mind, the IF/THEN Gender Equity Grant Program has provided the museum an opportunity to continue their work in inclusion, diversity, equity, and access and look directly at addressing inequities in the STEM field.

Beginning on July 15, the museum embarked on a 12-week speaker series called the Women in STEM Speaker Series that will wrap up on Wednesday, September 30. The speaker series was established to help create a culture shift and inspire more girls to become interested in a STEM field by highlighting and elevating real-life role models. The role models in the series represent different STEM careers and have been engaged in conversations about their careers, accomplishments, advice for young students, and how to address inequities in STEM.

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The sessions in the series has been interpreted into American Sign Language, streamed and recorded via the museum’s Facebook page, and uploaded to the museum’s YouTube channel after each session. Individuals were also invited to submit questions through the museum’s website and during the Facebook Live event. As of Monday, September 28, the series has reached 51,875 people on Facebook from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Ohio, Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Minnesota, Illinois, Puerto Rico, Georgia, Kenya, India, England and more.

Many of the speakers in the series are members of the AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors Program, 125 women who serve as role models for girls. Some of the Ambassadors who were highlighted in the series have included Dr. Wendy Bohon, Geologist & Science Communication Specialist at Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology; Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service; and Dr. Roselin Rosario-Melendez, Associate Principal Chemist and Project Leader at L’Oreal.

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In addition to the Ambassadors, it has been extremely important for the series to also highlight women from Pittsburgh and throughout Pennsylvania to provide local role models for local women and girls. Some of the women highlighted included Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Mercy Shitemi, a Kenyan-born Senior Systems Analyst in the health care industry; and Angela Cupelli, Pediatric Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant Nurse.

These women of different races, careers, and backgrounds have come together in one vision to help address the inequities in STEM fields. As the series finishes up, it is important to realize that the museum’s work in inclusion, diversity, equity, and access is not over and must continue to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate.

This blog post was contributed by Justin Tognarine (he/him), Director of Team & Community Engagement, Carnegie Science Center. A special thank you to Kaitlyn Zurcher (she/her), a talented Senior Manager of Marketing, Public Relations, and Social Media, Carnegie Science Center, for helping make this series come to life and ensuring its success.

Photo by Joshua Franzos

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