Category Archives: Education

Two Panels in Detroit Encourage Young Women to Join STEM Fields

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A recent panel at a Michigan Council of Women in Technology-sponsored CIO (Chief Information Officers) conference in Detroit shows promise for the development of STEM programs in the state of Michigan for young people, and especially girls. With over 500 attendees, including CIOs from Ford and General Motors, the panelists discussed the future of STEM fields and how the state of Michigan can answer Governor Rick Snyder’s call that “STEM education and competency is a top focus for Michigan and we’re doing more and more to develop talent on this front.”

Interestingly, across the street, another conference was being held addressing this same issue. Felicia Fields, group vice president of human resources at Ford, spoke at a Forbes forum, where she revealed that Ford would be implementing  career academies in Michigan schools to promote STEM fields, as well. “Ford has four academies in three locations in Florida, Kentucky and Utica. When the new Detroit academies are added this fall the network will serve 2,800 students,” notes Detroit Free Press writer Carol Cain. As such, the future of Michigan and its’ promotion of STEM careers for young people seems to be bright.

Wayne State U Honors students can teach Wikid GRRLS for HON3000/service-learning requirement

wayneHON 4940 WIKID GRRLS – TEACHING GIRLS ONLINE SKILLS FOR KNOWLEDGE SITES

Did you know that women are only 13 percent of Wikipedia contributors, that is, the people who write and edit the articles? Wikipedia’s gender gap affects what is (or isn’t) part of “the sum of all human knowledge” that the popular online encyclopedia offers.

You can be part of closing this huge gap. Register for HON 4940 for Fall Semester 2015 and teach middle and early high school girls in Detroit Public Schools online skills. HON 4940 also fulfills your service-learning/HON 3000 requirement!

You’ll teach in schools close to our WSU campus with a pre-prepared curriculum. We’ll meet weekly to discuss progress & blog about experiences. We’ll also collect data on how such interventions can encourage girls to contribute to projects such as Wikipedia.

Be part of closing Wikipedia’s gender gap!

If you have any questions about the class, on how to register or have trouble registering, don’t hesitate to e-mail Stine Eckert at stine.eckert@wayne.edu.

The international perspective on STEM

 

Plenty of studies and arguments have been presented that tell us that it is neither good for society nor the economy when women and girls are not working in STEM fields. Based on UN data, Chelsea and Hillary Clinton’s No Ceiling project offers a summary of how STEM plays out not only in the United States but also how it compares internationally.

Worldwide, the percentage of graduates with a bachelor’s degree in science who are women range from 25% in the Netherlands to almost 50% in Argentina. The United States is in between, with 41 percent. The article highlights that worldwide only 20 percent of computer scientists are women. That is, women and girls miss out on working in one of the fastest growing and highest paying fields.

While girls start out strongly in school regarding math and science skills, confidence and interest fade when they reach secondary school levels, as the article details.

Hence, it is especially important to keep girls engaged in computer science with fun projects and encourage them to consider tech jobs as lucrative careers. Our free Wikid GRRLs curriculum works to keep middle and early high school girls engaged in the process of learning online skills and to consider a job on the back side of computing. We build confidence and remind girls at this particular time in their lives that a career involving technology is a viable option.

We are working to bring our free 10-week afters school program in Detroit Public Schools. If you are interested in working with Wikid GRRLs, e-mail Dr. Stine Eckert at stine.eckert@wayne.edu.

Howard University adds Black histories to Wikipedia

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Students and faculty at Howard University in Washington D.C. came together on February 19, 2015 for a Wikpedia-Edit-A-Thon to add urgently needed Black history to Wikipedia. As the New York Times wrote: “To many people, a topic does not exist if it does not have a Wikipedia page.”

That Wikipedia is being edited by a large majority of white Western men, as the New York Times also previously reported, has sparked many such editing events to correct these author and connected content biases. Most of these, however, have been geared toward adding the histories of women.

In this latest edition, scholars expanded existing histories of Black scientists, doctors and designers and added missing Black women, men and organizations to the online encyclopedia.

More such events are planned for the future. Perhaps it is time to start a Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon in Detroit? Wikid GRRLS would be game.

“Dilbert’s” Scott Adams: How many women do we need in tech?

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Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has treated the gender gap in tech careers in many of his cartoons, sometimes subtler, sometimes more bluntly. Perhaps you remember the comic strip about “his mother.”

Recently he shared his perspective on the gender gap in plain prose, suggesting a goal of 33 percent women in technology careers.

While not all parts of his blog post make complete sense (which he acknowledges), he does provide his observations as an insider, especially of the start-up culture:

“Pause for a moment to let that sink in. I didn’t say I have met few women in those types of jobs, or not as many as I would have expected. I am saying I have literally met zero. None.”

He presents three interconnected reasons: women are not encouraged to enter technical fields; networks are key for success but women appear to be cut-off as men mingle among themselves; and sexism, discrimination and old-boys networks “make technology an unfriendly place for women. My observations support that.”

Thus, striving toward 33 percent is not a bad first step toward gender parity in STEM. As Adams suggests, encouraging girls and women to enter tech jobs is the first step before they get build and interact in networks.

Wikid GRRLs believes, based on studies, that we need to start early to get girls at least thinking about these fields for future careers. We need to encourage girls already in middle school to learn and hone computer and internet-related skills and to consider computer science and related areas as viable job options. With our curriculum we introduce girls to the idea that they, too, can be  part of the back space of online structures and online content. We hope to get started in five Detroit Public Schools this fall. Stay tuned!

If you are a teacher in a Detroit Public School, especially around the Wayne State University campus, and are interested in working with Wikid GRRLS, contact Stine Eckert at stine.eckert@wayne.edu.

The importance of role models

It makes a lot of sense to tackle the gender gap in STEM fields from different angles.

Apart from early education and dispelling myths about math and gender, another piece of the puzzle is to ensure that girls have role models they can relate to and identify with. A free to download collection of interviews with “Women in Data,” by Cornelia Lévy-Bencheton, gives women a voice to share how much mentors and role models have shaped their careers in different fields in data and technology.

The interviews also show that with more women going into technology, more role models and mentors will be available to coach younger women and girls to follow.

Be inspired be these 15 “Women in Data.”

 

Four ideas from Stanford President Hennessy on Women in Technology

Right on target with our goals at Wikid GRRLs, Stanford University President John Hennessy said at the recent Intel Capital annual summit that when it comes to women in science and technology: “our system is broken somewhere between middle school and high school.” He listed four barriers that need to be addressed:

 

  • A lack of inspiration and role models for girls during puberty (girls do better than boys in elementary school in math and science)
  • A dominance of gaming culture, and within it a prevalence of “killing” that he says is little attractive to girls
  • An isolation effect for women being the only one or just one of few in a tough math or science class
  • An image of computer science as a “lonely pursuit”

He suggested more inspiration, role models, and support networks as solutions for girls to develop and keep up an interest in math and science.

This is what Wikid GRRLs is set out to do with a creative writing approach. In a group of like-minded girl peers, students in middle and early high schools play in a sandbox wiki to learn online skills to contribute to knowledge projects. We offer them an introduction to simple coding, writing creatively to produce content that matters to them, and presenting their work on the computer confidently.

If you are interested in teaching our free, ready-to-go Wikid GRRLs curriculum in your school (or library or community center) e-mail Stine Eckert at stine.eckert@wayne.edu.

More on the story on Forbes, November 4, 2014.