Girls and Women in STEM: Highlights from the Coordination Hub’s Twitter Chat


Women__Girls_in_STEM_Twitter_Chat_.png“My mother always encouraged my interest in STEM. It all began with the 4th grade Science Fair when I built an incubator to hatch chickens. I became enthused with animal science and when old enough I began volunteering at the National Zoo and learning about careers in animal science.” NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub’s Simone Soso, along with others, described what sparked her interest in STEM in the most recent live #INCLUDESchat on Twitter.

To celebrate Women’s History Month and the publication of our Evidence-Based Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Girls and Women in STEM research brief, the Coordination Hub hosted a live #INCLUDESchat on Twitter on Girls and Women in STEM on March 26, 2021. We were joined by National Network members and eight guest panelists committed to increasing female participation in STEM education and careers. The panelists for the chat were:

  • Jhenai Chandler, Director, Florida-Caribbean Louis Stokes Regional Center of Excellence @drJChand
  • Karen Peterson, Chief Executive Officer, National Girls Collaborative Project @kpeterson
  • Kavita Mittapalli, CEO, MN Associates @KavitaMNA
  • Linda Kekelis, Consultant, STEM Next Opportunity Fund @LindaKekelis
  • Leslie Goodyear, Co-PI, NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub @lkg4
  • Rita Karl, Senior Managing Director, STEM Media and Education Department & Executive Producer, SciGirls @SciGirls
  • Simone Soso, Program Manager and Research Associate, NSF INCLUDES Coordination Hub @simone_soso
  • Stephani Page, Community Engagement Manager, ADVANCE Resource and Coordination (ARC) Network @ThePurplePage

In this post, we highlight some of the rich insight, experiences and strategies that were shared during the hour-long chat. Below, please find some responses to the questions we posed during the event:

What inspired your interest in STEM? Is there a notable woman in STEM who is your role model?

  • Rita Karl @SciGirls: My Mom and Grandfather. In the 1940s he gave her STEM toys she handed down to me in the 60s (chemistry set, erector set) and she bought me a telescope. She said I could be whatever I wanted and encouraged me in math and science! #INCLUDESChat #WomensHistoryMonth #STEMEquity
  • Leslie Goodyear @lkg4: I benefited from participating in NSF-funded opportunities for girls in middle school - learning about plankton and streams! I'm inspired by so many amazing women in STEM - with so many pathways to contribute, whether in the field, writing about STEM, or educating the next generation.
  • Linda Kekelis @LindaKekelis: I was inspired by @lyngomes who inspired @techbridgegirls in #STEM. Lyn gushes with enthusiasm, connects through her personal story, and comes up with the funniest activities like hairdryer dissection. #INCLUDESChat #WomensHistoryMonth #STEMEquity
  • Stephani Page @ThePurplePage: I was a toddler when my mother did my first science experiment with me - I hooked from there. My role models are the Black women in my family who were always STEM-minded but who weren’t afforded the opportunity to pursue education/careers in the way I have been.
    • As a biochemist, @BerondaM is someone who I have looked up to for well over a decade! And as always, the many Black women who I don’t know about who trailblazed in my fields. #INCLUDESChat
  • Rhonda Tate @taterhonda: In elementary school I realized that I really liked solving problems (real problems or problems I made up!). STEM and problem solving go hand in hand. I WISH I had a #WomaninSTEM role model and am working hard to make these women more visible for future generations. #INCLUDESChat
  • Jhenai Chandler @DrJChand: I discovered my interest in Food Science late. Never knew it was a field until college. This is a key issue with being #firstgen - you often aren’t aware and lack mentorship. #INCLUDESCHAT

Did/do you have a mentor? How do you model mentorship for girls and women in STEM? 

  • Rita Karl @SciGirls: Several, one of whom is @kpeterson! Mentors can help you learn to navigate the world as a woman. SciGirls models mentorship in episodes with girls working with women and by acting as peer role models for each other and viewers. #INCLUDESChat #WomensHistoryMonth #STEMEquity
  • Kavita Mittapalli @KavitaMNA: Intentional, long-term mentorship is imp. Knowing & understanding well what your mentees may like, want to do & become & how a certain field might be more suitable for them is important before making recommendations. Touch & go mentorships don’t work as well, IMHO. #INCLUDESChat
  • Simone B. Soso @simone_soso: I have multiple mentors that each bring their own expertise that are used to help me guide my career. Mentorship for girls and women in STEM begins with exposure to people, activities, and career options. Women require a mentor that can help them propel their careers.
  • Linda Kekelis @LindaKekelis: Dr. Eileen Gambrill, professor @berkeleysocwel, believed in me (and showed it) and celebrated my efforts during my grad studies. I always felt good - more confident and excited to continue my work after our meetings. #INCLUDESChat #WomensHistoryMonth #STEMEquity
  • It's important to also provide access to mentors (beyond ourselves) and nurture the activation of these relationships so that girls can achieve their potential. Resource alert – Mentor Challenge offers to help youth build social capital. #INCLUDESChat
  • Rhonda Tate @taterhonda: Some of my most influential mentors have been a decade younger than me - important to make sure we keep our definitions of mentors wide open! #INCLUDESchat

What effective practices have you found to encourage young girls in STEM through early education and informal science? 

  • Jhenai Chandler @DrJChand: #includeschat changing the narrative about gender roles and who is a scientist!
    • Contextualization!!!! Show the ways in which science moves our world! We mystify science so much that we make it scary when in all actuality it’s all around us and in everything we do/ use. #INCLUDESChat
  • Kavita Mittapalli @KavitaMNA: Problem solving and engineering by design offer students agency, taps into their creativity and curiosity, and makes learning the "scientific method" accessible, fun, and engaging. #INCLUDESChat
  • Kristine Wadosky @KristineWadosky: Participation in #sciencefairs where their ideas and creativity are heard. So many young girls I have seen compete in science fairs over the years have gone on to STEM programs #INCLUDESChat
  • Lisa Weiner @illuminatEDllc: I think practices that encourage girls to see themselves as scientists are a good start!
  • Also, opportunities to see STEM as interactive and creative, not solitary and dry, are important in fanning the flame of girls' interest in STEM.
  • Stephani Page @ThePurplePage: It’s been really important to me to show young girls that many of us are working to make STEM spaces and the world at large better for them. And being honest about the fact that there is a lot that needs to change! #INCLUDESChat
    • Linda Kekelis @LindaKekelis: Important insights, @ThePurplePage. Wouldn't it be great to have programs teaching boys and men to make #STEM spaces inclusive and inviting for girls and women. #INCLUDESChat
  • Leslie Goodyear @lkg4: Involving families is important, too - to support girls' explorations and engagement. Whether directly, like examples of family activities shared here, or to cheer girls on in their pursuits. #INCLUDESchat
    • Sara Kobilka @SaraKDM: Replying to @lkg4 - I'm late to the party and missed the live chat but I wanted to add that I think it is very important to make sure to define family as broadly as the girls you are working with define it. Our definition of family is deeply embedded in our culture.

Girls' & women's identities are multifaceted and include disability status, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation & more. What intersectional approaches have you found to address the barriers many women face in STEM?  

  • Karen Peterson @kpeterson: Begin with acknowledgement.   Embrace the complexity and know the approaches are not easy.  I have learned a lot from @sandylocks #INCLUDESchat
  • NGCProject @ngcproject: Replying to @kpeterson and @sandylocks - Great advice! Listen and join conversations to learn and support efforts for the continued support of #womeninSTEM. We are so grateful to be able to provide these spaces #INCLUDESchat
  • Simone B. Soso @simone_soso: Performing implicit bias and culturally responsive trainings for STEM educators can aid in the development of inclusive work and learning environments. Conferences and networks explicitly for women of diverse backgrounds can facilitate collaborations and be a source of support.
  • Meet students where they are. If barriers have limited their access then give them the tools needed (preparatory courses, physical lab access, mental health resources, etc) so that they can succeed.
  • Rita Karl @SciGirls: Representation in media is critical. SciGirls most recent season included an episode featuring deaf and hard of hearing girls. #INCLUDESChat
  • Stephanie Page @ThePurplePage: Integrating equity frameworks is really important - equality seeks to give everyone the same thing, equity looks at individual needs and how identity/belonging to different social groups means varied experiences w/ oppression and opportunity. #INCLUDESChat

Women are significantly underrepresented in STEM disciplines such as engineering and computer science. How can we build pathways for girls and women in these disciplines? 

  • Kavita Mittapalli @KavitaMNA: Formal, informal, and very intentional efforts at all levels to build STEM pathways and pipelines are critical to drawing more girls and women in all STEM disciplines and occupations in which women are truly underrepresented. #INCLUDESChat
  • Women also need to be aware of the challenges they will face as a minority-esp., WOC-in certain occup. & industry sectors: careers in welding, manufacturing, & const. & the supports available to them. Some of the challenges include balancing work -family life. #INCLUDESChat
  • Lisa Weiner @illuminatEDllc: Make and support strong connections between schools, OST programs, and universities and employers. Families should be included too!
  • Linda Kekelis @LindaKekelis: With family engagement. Did you know that encouragement from parents and caring adults plays an important role in girls’ engagement and persistence STEM? Resource alert @STEMNext has lots of research+practice resources on #familyengagement. #INCLUDESChat #STEMEquity
  • Rita Karl SciGirls @SciGirls: We must provide programs that intentionally welcome girls of all races, ethnicities, & abilities to build their confidence in STEM. Also, girls need to see women in these specific jobs who look like them, on screen & in person. #INCLUDESChat #WomensHistoryMonth #STEMEquity
  • Karen Peterson @kpeterson: Start young. Engage community and families. Do not underestimate the power of role models at every age and career stage. We know what to do.  Let's do it. #WomensHistoryMonth  #INCLUDESchat
  • Jhenai Chandler @DrJChand: Address the chilly climate !!! Not just in degree programs but in the workforce. How mothering is perceived, flexibility and pay equity !!! #INCLUDESChat

If you could give one piece of advice to girls and women pursuing STEM, what would it be? 

  • Simone B. Soso @simone_soso: Try everything once! You never know what is an ideal fit for you until you experience it first-hand. Have conversations with people that are wiling to share their journeys and networks with you. Never take “NO” as a final answer, there is always a “Yes” around the next corner.
  • Rita Karl @SciGirls: STEM studies may be hard, but with this knowledge you can change the world & make it a better place for people, animals & the environment. With STEM, you can improve our world & help solve the many challenges we face today. #INCLUDESChat #WomensHistoryMonth #STEMEquity
  • Karen Peterson @kpeterson: Make connections. Find a role model.  Seek out mentors to inspire you and provide support throughout your path #WomensHistoryMonth  #INCLUDESchat
  • Linda Kekelis @LindaKekelis: You don’t need to be perfect. The grace you give to others - give to yourself. Resource alert – Brave, Not Perfect by @reshmasaujani offers practices to help us let go of our need for perfection and make bravery a lifelong habit. #INCLUDESChat #WomensHistoryMonth #STEMEquity
  • Kristine Wadosky @KristineWadosky: There will be a lot of things pushing and pulling you in many directions but remember to stay true to yourself and don't ever give in #INCLUDESChat
  • Stephanie Page Doc @ThePurplePage: Find people who know what they are talking about, are invested in you and your success, and are willing to offer guidance/mentorship! But also respect and value them and the relationships you are building! #INCLUDESChat

We hope you enjoyed reading these tweets! If you are interested in learning more of what was shared, check out this compilation that includes all tweets from the chat.