Connecting girls with women working in STEM careers

Credit: Delaware Valley College. Ashley Parry, a sixth grade student, had a chance to learn about the science behind beauty products.

May 22, 2014

On Thursday, May 22, 360 girls from 25 school districts in Bucks County came to Delaware Valley College to hear from women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.

The #girlSTEM conference (formerly called Girls In Focus With Technology) is an exciting initiative of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit #22 that works to inspire girls in grades 6-12 to think about new possibilities for their futures. The annual conference is its fourth year and was sponsored by The United Way of Bucks County’s Women’s Initiative. The event has been growing in popularity and this year, the spots filled in just a few hours.

STEM jobs are often male-dominated. A 2011 report by the US Department of Commerce found that, while women filled close to half of all jobs in the United States, they held less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. This issue contributes to the wage gap between men and women. The study found that women in STEM jobs were making 33 percent more than women in non-STEM jobs.

Participants heard from women employed in a variety of STEM careers and participated in hands-on activities.  Presenters covered topics such as: becoming a programmer, careers in energy, creating games, engineering, cyber safety, wetland ecology, nursing, making websites easier to use for a living, medical sales, physics, and genetic traits in crops.

Dr. Jackie Ricotta, a DelVal faculty member, presented "You Grow Girl,"  which covered how seeds deliver new genetic traits to crops. 

During “What Makes Up Your Makeup,” one of the most popular sessions, girls had a chance to work with Bethany Davis from Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories/ Promius Pharma to make a beauty product. The session gave them a chance to explore the science behind the cosmetic industry.

“This provides a different perspective on the cosmetic industry,” said Davis, who has a background in biology and chemistry. “Understanding science is an important foundation for any career. I think the girls got that today. I’m really glad this opportunity is available for them. It’s so important for them to know that they have the support to get where they want to go.”


participants make beauty products

Credit: Delaware Valley College. Participants make beauty products during a hands-on session.

Diana Walker, who works for the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, said she wishes schools would have provided something similar when she was younger.

“My favorite part of this event is being with the students and seeing how excited they get,” said Walker.

Ashley Parry, a sixth grader, participated for the first time this year.

“I thought it was really fun, and I definitely want to do it again next year, “ said Parry. “I really want to be a vet and now I see everything involved. I liked learning more about science.”

Rona Varghese, a 12-year-old participant from Valley Elementary School said she wants to be a doctor.

“It was really inspirational,” said Varghese. “Most of the jobs they talked about are thought of as men’s jobs. It’s good for girls to see that they can hope to have those types of jobs too.”

At DelVal, a high percentage of women are preparing for STEM fields. For students enrolled full-time in fall 2012: 75.2 percent (807 out of 1073 women) were in STEM majors. STEM majors at Delaware Valley include programs such as: animal science, dairy science, food science, crop science, horticulture, environmental science, biology, zoo science, and chemistry.