“Seeing females like me being successful pushes me to pursue my own STEM passions.”
– Ariel, 2023 Flight Crew (KY)
Look around, and it won’t take long to realize that women continue to be underrepresented in STEM. Women represent a third of the STEM workforce, while Latina, Black, and Indigenous women combined represent less than 10%. Though incremental progress has been made for some, gender and racial gaps in education pathways persist, limiting access, preparation, and career opportunities.
Now is not the time to slow down but to double down. Complex problems require complex solutions, but there are simple things we can do today that make a big difference in real-time.
Opportunities for youth to engage with successful women who have made strides and broken barriers are a remarkably effective way to inspire girls to see themselves in STEM and go forth fearlessly. Conversations between girls and inspiring women in STEM are a catalyst to closing the gender gap in STEM and helping them develop a sense of belonging.
Recently, the Million Girls Moonshot Flight Crew had the opportunity to meet with and talk with two inspiring women in STEM who are leading out-of-this-world projects at NASA, Dr. Camille Alleyne and Julie Honcharevich. From the International Space Station to the moon and beyond to Mars, the contributions of these women are significant and inspiring.
Conversations like this allow girls to conquer their fears, bolster their confidence, and see what is possible through hard work and perseverance. They demystify the process of working in STEM fields by sharing the failures and successes with which these seemingly far away or unattainable careers became a reality for another woman.
“It was an empowering opportunity to see and listen closely to the inspiring story of the two powerful women, Camille Alleyne and Julie Honcharevich, who had achieved their dreams! What was even more inspiring was that their dreams were not small, and nor was their perseverance in reaching these dreams. They decided to look past the social criticisms that follow us women, immigrant citizens, low-income families, and simply minority groups because their end goal shone brighter than any of these temporary “stoplights.” said Frida, 2023 Flight Crew member (NY).
With their flexible, experiential, and youth-centered focus, afterschool and summer programs are well-suited to facilitate meaningful conversations between youth and STEM professionals who look like them, have similar backgrounds, and are successful in their careers. Here are five reasons why this single strategy is a catalyst for girls.
✨ Breaking Stereotypes — Conversations between girls and accomplished female role models challenge stereotypes about gender roles and who belongs in STEM while showcasing a diverse range of opportunities.
✨ Nurturing a Love for STEM — Role models can help girls overcome self-doubt and develop a deep love for STEM by sharing their interests, aspirations, and personal journeys.
“We got to learn what it takes to be a leader while also learning how to keep going for your dreams and never give up.” Lily, 2023 Flight Crew member (OR).
✨ Embracing Challenges — Role models can share stories of resilience, perseverance, and triumph, instilling confidence in young girls that they can overcome hurdles and embrace challenges with a sense of determination and self-assurance.
“I don’t have all the answers, but I know how to approach a problem to solve it. It is a significant skill set I needed early and helped me get here. It is something that people need to work on.” — Julie Honcharevich
✨ Creating Networks — Meaningful conversations between girls and women in STEM can lead to long-lasting mentorship relationships and access to valuable networks, internships, and growth opportunities. Mentorship is crucial in nurturing girls’ social capital to succeed in STEM fields.
✨ Driving Diversity and Inclusion — By facilitating conversations between girls and diverse women in STEM, we challenge the status quo and create an environment where girls feel valued, supported, and empowered to pursue their dreams; this is especially true for Black, Indigenous, and Latina girls on their STEM journey.
“Being a woman of color I know I bring a unique perspective that is not represented in my professional spaces. Because there are not many people who look like me, especially at this level. I’m actually the first African-American to lead a major human spaceflight program at JSC. So, I know that what I bring to the table is a unique perspective that actually is a major contribution and furthers what we are doing.
When you can have people at the table who bring different perspectives – and not just gender or cultural or a religious perspective – but diversity in terms of experiences, backgrounds, schooling, education, as well. All of those things that we bring to the table that make us unique and we are able to use that filter and use those experiences to help solve really big problems. I know that I contribute in that way.”
– Dr. Camille Allyne
To learn more about the Million Girls Moonshot and how you can be part of reimagining who belongs in STEM, visit www.milliongirlsmoonshot.org