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Connecting girls with women mentors in the STEM fields (via HuffingtonPost)

 

Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, is one of the most successful and influential women in business. She made her way through Harvard then Google, before ending up at the booming social media company Facebook. She has written a book trying to inspire women to take on more challenges and change their mindset about their role and potential in the corporate world.

 

Ending up in the high places is hard enough, but women in the STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) are almost as rare. Just 24% of people in the STEM workforce are women according to the Association for Women in Science. Many agree, it is nearly impossible to be successful, learning and working on your own. And it can be especially tough for girls to pursue careers in the STEM field without following the example of a role model who have succeeded in that path. Sandberg herself relied on economist Larry Summers to lead her through her latter years at Harvard.

 

Popular news outlets, especially those online, have a huge reach and a voice that is heard by many. The people at the Huffington Post have realized they can use this vast reach to connect women mentors that are successful in the STEM field and “mentees” aspiring to do the same.

 

HuffPost believes that simply connecting girls with women working in their field of interest is the main importance. The program took girls or ages 14 to 21 and connected them with a mentor. How the relationship developed was up to the mentor and mentee. HuffPost did not impose any sort of curriculum or time commitment but said the general program would be over by the end of April, 2013. Pairs can continue to email, video chat or even get together to learn more about each other, share inspirations, aspirations, experiences, knowledge and develop a lasting relationship if they chose to do so.

 

The program which started late in 2012, was very popular and received 1,000 mentee applications and although over 300 STEM women stepped up to meet demand, there was an obvious lack of mentors. Surely HuffPost will try doing this again.

 

The online newspaper also set up a section dedicated to girls in STEM aimed towards sharing experiences, blogs, and news about women in the STEM fields. Though women write most entries, there are some gentlemen sharing their thoughts and experiences with the very important issue of female participants in STEM.

 

In the “Girls in STEM” page, we get to meet a few of the mentors who took on the challenge of inspiring a young one. One of these mentors is Cheryl Platz, a User Experience Designer currently working for Microsoft in their Server and Tools division. In a blog entry on the page, Platz explains what her title entails,  “We go by many names -- interaction designers, user experience designers, human-computer interaction specialists -- but our work is the same. We use the principles of computer science and cognitive psychology to first work through a problem and then design an aesthetically pleasing solution to the problem.”

 

A wide range of interests are represented in the program. Women working as editors, educators, entrepreneurs, engineers, students and many other occupations are involved. Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS participated as well as Emilie Reas, a neuroscience PhD student with a background in biology, psychology and chemistry. Reas is fascinated by learning how the human brain and mind work and she currently studies human memory with fMRI. How awesome does that sound?

 

Although there are other programs to help young students find mentors like MentoNet, this program is focused on inspiring females. Check out HuffPost’s “Girls in STEM” at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/girls-in-stem.

 

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