Adding Mentors To Solve For STEM Success

Teach For America joins Million Women Mentors to recruit one million mentors for women in STEM.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Although women make up half our population, only 13% of U.S. high school girls plan to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields.  And the percentage of women who hold STEM jobs is merely 24%. This math doesn’t add up.

This is a status quo that can’t stand.  If we as a nation hope to pursue innovative STEM solutions, we must bring diverse perspectives to the table.  And that means doing everything in our power to prepare women for the incredible career opportunities available in STEM.  From 2010 to 2020, employment in STEM fields is projected to increase by 16.5% - bringing the number of STEM jobs to 8.5 million.

We at Teach For America are thrilled to partner with Million Women Mentors in an engagement campaign that launched this month.  Million Women Mentors seeks to recruit one million people in STEM fields to serve as mentors to young women – to increase young women’s interest in STEM subjects and to support their successful pursuit of STEM programs and careers.

Be a part of the solution.  Support young women as they beat the odds to achieve in STEM subjects and pursue STEM careers.  Learn more and sign up to mentortoday.  You can also reach out to Million Women Mentors to connect a young woman in your life with an opportunity to receive mentorship.

Women from Teach For America and our partner organizations have shared their personal perspectives on the importance of mentoring young women in STEM.

A close headshot of a young woman with long straight black hair smiling in front of a blue background with yellow writing, wearing a yellow silk scarf and pearl earrings.

Grace Chen

Teach For America, Secondary Mathematics Designer

“There are practical benefits to mentoring—career advice, expanded networks, opportunities, etc.—but what has mattered most for me have been the spiritual benefits: the strength I’ve drawn and the relationships I’ve built. While we may not face the structural or legal barriers we once did, there are still many systemic, institutionalized, and social challenges (pressure, obstacles, microaggressions, etc.) that push women to compromise either themselves or their aspirations. Mentoring has helped me believe that what I want to be possible and who I want to be—as a woman of color working in STEM—are actually possible. My mentors have shown me what it means to not only quietly defy stereotypes as an individual but also to actively own and resist them without losing myself in the process. The women I mentor inspire me to work more urgently toward a world in which they are not the exception and do not have to justify or qualify their passion, their energy, or their commitments.”

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Ursa Scherer

Teach For America, Senior Managing Director, People Leadership and Experience

“In college, Worcester Polytechnic Institute – an engineering school – it was the first time that I got to see other women doing amazing things in fields of engineering, math, science, and technology, and it was important to me to know that all of that was possible.”
 

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Carlisha Williams

Women Empowering Nations, Founder & Executive Director
“The reason I founded Women Empowering Nations is based on my own personal experiences - I grew up in a predominantly white environment.  I was in classes with teachers and students who did not look like me, and I really struggled to with my own identity.  I felt that I wanted to be that change in the lives of young women, and so I started Women Empowering Nations, [which is] an international non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of girls and women through self-esteem development, educational, and leadership outreach programs.”

Click to hear Carlisha share more of her personal mentoring story.

(This interview was part of Teach For America's Blank Show Radio series. The thoughts, ideas, and opinions expressed in the Blank Show Radio series do not represent the views of Teach For America as an organization unless explicitly stated. )

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Courtney Murray

Teach For America, Associate, District Strategy & Community Partnerships

“I was mentored by professionals in STEM fields as early as in 6th grade.  Since STEM is a male dominated field, it was important for me to see women who looked like me and had successful STEM careers.  There is a big difference between a teacher or college counselor explaining what an engineer or computer programmer does and seeing a woman of color stand before you and explain how she has saved her company $1M by implementing a new technology system.  The ability to have access to examples of women in STEM who have been successful shows young students that possibilities are endless for them.”

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Natalia Chabebe 

(New York City ’12)

“Something that I noticed very quickly was a problem was that there are really no role models that look like me in [STEM] fields, and so I took it upon myself to change that – one person at a time at least.  I thought the best way to change this lack of role models that look like me was to try to become one.  I thought that being a teacher in a very strong STEM subject would allow me to open the door to many young women and minorities who maybe don’t know about engineering or science careers, or who might not think that they’re capable of pursuing these kinds of careers.  I like to be that role model [for them] and to say that it is possible.  For me mentoring is a topic that’s very close to my heart and it’s something that I work towards every day.”

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