Ask Donna Video: Girls and Robotic Teams

Hi, it’s Donna here with a new *Ask Donna* video blog,

In this week’s video, I advise a school on how to close the leaky pipeline of girls on robotics teams:

This week’s question comes from Vicki Mazur, Math/Computer Science Teacher at Classical Academy:

“Good morning Donna, I am mentoring 3 levels of competitive robotics; elementary, middle school, and high school. The elementary team averages 1/3 girls. The middle school team averages 1/4 girls. The high school team averages 1/5 girls.

While some of this “attrition” results from additional boys joining the teams, some of it is losing girls as other opportunities for extra-curricular activities increase.

This year, the high school team was initiated by 3 girls and 2 of them chose other avenues of afterschool activities. Two other girls replaced them so the final enrollment was 3 girls and 15 boys. The team, as a first-year competitor, placed 10th out of 75 in the region. Even with that success, enrollment for next fall looks to be more boys.

How do I increase attraction to the team when faced with the numerous non-STEM opportunities available to students in middle and high school?”

Watch this latest *Ask Donna* video to hear 4 things you can do to attract girls to STEM opportunities such as these robotics teams!

Then, Talk with Donna 1-on-1 in a Women in STEM & CTE More Information Session: Sign up for a free call to talk with Donna about your college’s STEM/CTE programs and specific challenges.

The *Ask Donna* WomenTech Educators Video Blog: Have questions about how you can see more women and girls in your STEM/CTE courses? Need help overcoming a recruitment or retention challenge specific to your program and school? Now is your chance to get your question answered in a personal video from Donna Milgram—IWITTS Executive Director and developer of the WomenTech Educators Training System—in this new monthly video blog. Answering questions is Donna’s favorite part of providing professional development to help educators move the needle for women in STEM and CTE.

Want Donna to answer your question in the next *Ask Donna* video blog? Donna’s coaching is usually limited to WomenTech Educators Training school teams, so don’t miss this opportunity to *Ask Donna* your questions on broadening participation.

Ask Donna – Submit a Question Now

Stay tuned for a new *Ask Donna* video blog!

*Ask Donna* Video Blog: Making Women Welcome in Lab/Shop Classes

In this video blog, I answer a common retention question about how CTE/STEM educators can help female students feel welcome in lab and shop classes:

Question: “Hi Donna. My question for you is, what advice do you have for teachers to make shop classes and group lab assignments comfortable, respectful and welcoming to women in non-traditional programs?” ~ John Ryan, Vice Principal, Connecticut Technical High School System, Middletown, CT

Want to hear 3 specific retention strategies Donna recommends for CTE/STEM labs and shop classes welcoming to women?

Watch and learn!

Talk with Donna 1-on-1 in a Women in STEM & CTE More Information Session: Sign up for a free call to talk with Donna about your college’s STEM/CTE programs and specific challenges.

The *Ask Donna* WomenTech Educators Video Blog: Have questions about how you can see more women and girls in your STEM/CTE courses? Need help overcoming a recruitment or retention challenge specific to your program and school? Now is your chance to get your question answered in a personal video from Donna Milgram—IWITTS Executive Director and developer of the WomenTech Educators Training System—in this new monthly video blog. Answering questions is Donna’s favorite part of providing professional development to help educators move the needle for women in STEM and CTE.

Want Donna to answer your question in the next *Ask Donna* video blog? Donna’s coaching is usually limited to WomenTech Educators Training school teams, so don’t miss this opportunity to *Ask Donna* your questions on broadening participation.

Ask Donna – Submit a Question Now

Stay tuned for a new *Ask Donna* video blog!

Ask Donna: New Video Blog and Contest Winners

In this video blog, I answer a great question from the first of the 3 winners of last month’s *Ask Donna* Video Blog Contest:

First of 3 Winning Questions: “How can I overcome the machismo? I am in beautiful South Texas! We have a very strong Hispanic culture in our area. I have a lot of young ladies who come to my demo-days and say this is what I want to do, but then they go home and tell Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, and get told women don’t do that type of work and that’s the end of it. Out of 2,500 ladies I have talked to, only 1 has completed my millwright program. She graduates this Friday and will be making close to $32 an hour! She just turned 21.” ~ Dan Anderson, Faculty, Millwright Industrial Maintenance Mechanic, Del Mar College, Corpus Christi, Texas

Want to hear the specific recruitment strategies I recommend for overcoming recruitment roadblocks like this? You won’t want to miss this video!

Watch my video blog to learn how a few changes to existing recruitment events can make all the different in recruiting female students to STEM and CTE programs such as Dan’s millwright program.

In this video, I also congratulate all 3 winners of my *Ask Donna* Video Blog Contest who asked the 3 best questions:

  • Dan Anderson, Faculty, Millwright Industrial Maintenance Mechanic, Del Mar College, Corpus Christi, Texas
  • Vicki Mazur, Teacher, Math/Computer Science, Classical Academy Online, San Diego, California
  • George Karnbauer, Instructor, Computer Networking, Forbes Road – Career & Technology Center, Pennsylvania

Congratulations to all 3 winners of our Unlimited Potential female role model posters! I can’t wait to answer the questions from our next 2 winners in my next video blogs.

Talk with Donna 1-on-1 in a Women in STEM & CTE More Information Session: Sign up for a free call to talk with Donna about your college’s STEM/CTE programs and specific challenges.

The *Ask Donna* WomenTech Educators Video Blog: Have questions about how you can see more women and girls in your STEM/CTE courses? Need help overcoming a recruitment or retention challenge specific to your program and school? Now is your chance to get your question answered in a personal video from Donna Milgram—IWITTS Executive Director and developer of the WomenTech Educators Training System—in this new monthly video blog. Answering questions is Donna’s favorite part of providing professional development to help educators move the needle for women in STEM and CTE.

Want Donna to answer your question in the next *Ask Donna* video blog? Donna’s coaching is usually limited to WomenTech Educators Training school teams, so don’t miss this opportunity to *Ask Donna* your questions on broadening participation.

Ask Donna – Submit a Question Now

Stay tuned for a new *Ask Donna* video blog each month! Next month I’ll be answering Question #2 from the *Ask Donna* contest.

Ask Donna: WomenTech Educators Video Blog #1

My first *Ask Donna* video blog post answers a big question that I know a lot of colleges want the answer to:

Question: If we have zero female students in our STEM/CTE program right now—and it’s in a very male-dominated field—how do we change that equation and recruit more women?

I know attracting women and girls to STEM/CTE courses in these circumstances can feel very, very difficult; however, the good news is that it is possible, and I have some examples from schools where they did so in one semester. In fact, both schools ended up with more women than men. You won’t want to miss this video!

Watch my first ever video blog to learn about innovative recruitment strategies that go beyond traditional outreach.

I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

Talk with Donna 1-on-1 in a Women in STEM & CTE More Information Session: Sign up for a free call to talk with Donna about your college’s STEM/CTE programs and specific challenges.

The *Ask Donna* WomenTech Educators Video Blog: Have questions about how you can see more women and girls in your STEM/CTE courses? Need help overcoming a recruitment or retention challenge specific to your program and school? Now is your chance to get your question answered in a personal video from Donna Milgram—IWITTS Executive Director and developer of the WomenTech Educators Training System—in this new monthly video blog. Answering questions is Donna’s favorite part of providing professional development to help educators move the needle for women in STEM and CTE.

Want Donna to answer your question in the next *Ask Donna* video blog? Donna’s coaching is usually limited to WomenTech Educators Training school teams, so don’t miss this opportunity to *Ask Donna* your questions on broadening participation.

Ask Donna – Submit a Question Now

Stay tuned for a new *Ask Donna* video blog each month!

Good news! IWITTS awarded NSF grant

I’m so happy to share with you that IWITTS will receive an Advanced Technological Education (ATE) grant from the National Science Foundation to help increase enrollment and retention of women in community college STEM courses!

The U.S. is at risk of losing its competitive edge because too few students are choosing science, technology, engineering and mathematics career pathways, 59% of STEM students in post-secondary education don’t complete their education, and opportunities to innovate are reduced by a lack of diversity. This project will target STEM programs such as computer science, engineering technology, and manufacturing technology where female students remain underrepresented. Community college programs nationwide will be assisted in expanding access to STEM education and career opportunities for women and girls.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, from California’s 13th Congressional District, said, “I am pleased that the Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science has been selected to receive this important and competitive funding. It is our obligation to ensure that young women are both encouraged and supported as they pursue studies and careers in STEM-related fields so they are prepared to contribute and thrive in the economy of the future.”

This federal award will allow IWITTS to provide the national community college ATE network with evidence-based teaching, learning, and recruitment practices via the proven WomenTech Educators Online Training. This professional development helps educators to increase enrollment and retention of women (and retention of men) in community college STEM courses throughout the country.

We will also be developing a new, electronic institutional assessment tool to help colleges assess if they are using best practices for recruiting and retaining female students in STEM and a new Women in STEM Toolkit (more details to come). The project will expand the free, online Proven Practices Collection, which brings educators a research-based road map of journal articles, webinars, and case studies for engaging women and girls in the technology classroom.

Here is the official press release about the new project. Please share this news with anyone you think might be interested. We’re excited to be moving forward and we’ll share more updates in the future as the project ramps up!

P.S. Are you ready to get started right now with recruiting more female students in your STEM programs? Download my free report on “How to Recruit Women and Girls to the STEM Classroom”.

IWITTS Celebrates Its 20-Year Anniversary!

A note from Donna: Like Rosie the Riveter, “We Can Do It!”

I’m happy to share with you that IWITTS recently celebrated our 20th anniversary as an organization. So have we fulfilled our mission, to help educators nationwide close the gender gap for women and girls in technology? We’ve made tremendous strides, but there is still so much work to be done.

I have personally worked with inspiring educators like Barbara Dufrain, a computer programming professor who attended a WomenTech Educators Training. In less than a year following the training, Professor Dufrain increased her female enrollment by 62% and increased the retention of her female and male students by 45%.

Our Proven Practices Collection on the IWITTS website now contains over 100 journal articles and case studies with proven strategies from programs which have increased the number of female students in STEM programs around the country. In our own CalWomenTech Project, community colleges received expert support and technical assistance to help recruit and retain women into technology programs where they were under-represented. The Project was highlighted by the National Science Foundation for demonstrating significant achievement and program effectiveness.

The exciting news is that in the 20 years since I’ve founded this organization we’ve identified what works and we have more tools than ever to teach the knowledgebase to a growing number of educators and to support them in implementation. We now have real time training, online training, webinars, support for implementation, posters and banners with female role models and so much more! We have the secrets to successfully recruiting and retaining women and girls in STEM, and our retention strategies work for male students too. However, we aren’t reaching enough educators, administrators and counselors.

Just last week I conducted a WomenTech Educators Training for a very engaged group of IT instructors from across the state of California (and half of the participants were male – yay!). Yet, many of my recruitment and retention secrets were completely new information to them. Why are our secrets still secrets in 2014? During the break, a male IT instructor – who also works in industry – said to me, “I now understand the differences between female and male learning styles, wow, what a difference that makes to me both as a teacher and in my workplace.” My goal for the next 20 years is for our recruitment and retention secrets to not to be secrets anymore. We must expand our work and scale up so that our recruitment and retention secrets are not just held by separate and special programs for women and girls in STEM but instead are the domain of the mainstream education system at all school levels.

So I am asking for your help in expanding our audience. Please help us help educators unlock the secrets to recruiting and retaining female students by doing the following:

1) Send your colleagues this link to my free report: “How to Recruit Women & Girls to the STEM Classroom”

In this special report, you will discover:

  • The top secret to increasing the number of women in your classes
  • Examples of successful outreach campaigns and what made them work
  • Key messages female students need to hear that will get them interested in your STEM programs
  • And much more

Share this link: http://www.iwitts.org/free/white-paper

2) Join the conversation and like us on Facebook at facebook.com/iwitts.

3) Attend our next WomenTech Educators Online Training with your team

At the training, you’ll develop recruitment and retention action plans to increase the number of female students in STEM programs. Come as a team: the more educators you can train in your department, region, or state, the more likely you are to have significant increases in female students in your school’s STEM programs, as well as lasting institutional change.

Find out more about the Online Training

I’m grateful to the IWITTS community – thousands of educators from around the country – who have partnered with us and worked with each other to implement these proven strategies in their classrooms, programs, districts, regions and states. From adjunct instructors to college presidents, and counselors, advisors, administrators, and many others, I’m continually inspired by the dedication of educators who care deeply about ensuring that female students have unlimited potential to pursue rewarding, fulfilling careers in STEM. It’s up to us to ensure that the secrets to recruiting and retaining women (and men) in STEM won’t be secrets anymore.

Like Rosie the Riveter said, “We can do it!”

 

STEM, Girls and the Importance of Storytelling

By Guest Blogger: Amy Leask, Vice President of Enable Education

Amy Leask & Friends

For cultures like the ancient Greeks, arts and sciences weren’t polar opposites, but rather all part of the process of finding one’s way in the universe.  Astronomers, chemists, biologists and inventors didn’t view their subjects with just the objective, analytical eye of a technician, but also with the sensibilities of a poet and a historian.  They were interested in how things worked and how they could be manipulated, but they also prized the stories behind things, as well as how they affected the way people lived and thought.

A similar approach is being used by 21st Century educators to draw girls and young women into STEM.  Traditionally speaking, girls and women have been encouraged to think in terms of communication, relationships between things, and general context. Instead of focusing on the “What” and “How” of STEM, female learners tend to be engaged more in these subjects if the discussion includes “Who”, “When” and “Why”.  In other words, girls and women are being invited to tell the story of STEM, past, present and future.  Storytelling is just one of the many ways in which STEM educators can include more “female” ways of learning.

Here are a number of ways in which storytelling can be incorporated into STEM subjects:

  • Discoveries, advancements and innovations don’t just occur by themselves, but are the product of individual people.  Famous minds in STEM, both past and present, often have rich and fascinating stories around them, such as how people became involved, what made them notable, and how they were able to overcome obstacles.  Studying the stories of the individuals behind the theories and experiments gives a human context to STEM, which is something that female learners are conditioned to look for.  This practice is also beneficial because it tells the story of the many women who have been instrumental in STEM for centuries.
  • Along similar lines, learners are being encouraged to examine the sociological story surrounding STEM.  As no discovery or development occurs in a vacuum, it’s crucial to understand that STEM is meant to serve human need, and that it ultimately impacts every aspect of how people within a culture live and think.  This, again, plays into the traditionally “female” practice of learning by examining relationships.
  • Aside from STEM history, educators are also teaching specific theories and even doing experiments with the help of storytelling techniques such as storyboards, role-playing, and even the creation of digital media.  Imagine learning about the behaviour of a virus through verse, learning to code by role-playing, or writing an original song about how atoms behave.
  • Science fiction has always been an exciting forum in which to anticipate the future of STEM.  True, it has traditionally been seen as a male-dominated genre, but there are a large number of well-known female writers.  If all else fails, there’s always room for the next budding female author.

The inclusion of storytelling is just one part of STEM education becoming STEAM (with arts) and more recently, STREAM (with reading and writing).  Blending literacy and communication skills development into STEM benefits girls and women in that it validates skill sets that have traditionally been labelled as female, and brings a new perspective to these subject areas.  Moreover, storytelling makes STEM more inclusive, appealing to younger children and to male learners who might otherwise not be as interested.  Overall, learning to not just do STEM, but to talk about it, read about it and even be creative with it makes for well-rounded learners who are more ready to take on the challenges of STEM careers.

Amy Leask is VP of Enable Education and Founder of KidsThinkAboutIt.com.  She is an educator and author who believes that learning is learning, and that a complete education includes a little of every subject area.  Her professional interests include STEM/STEAM/STEAM education, 21st century learning, whole child education and educational technology.

Comments are Working

Update: I’m happy to announce that the problem that was preventing comments from posting to the blog has been fixed, so all posts are once again open for commenting. Again, I really apologize if you posted a comment in March or April that did not make it onto the blog. Please repost your comment now and I look forward to responding. ~Donna

A Tribute to Women Pioneers and the Women that Follow in Their Footsteps

Oulekemi (Kemi) Macaulay-Newman

Today I heard an interview with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor about her new book, Out of Order. Retired Justice O’Connor talked about how hard it was to find a job as a female attorney in 1950 when she graduated from Stanford Law School because no one wanted to hire a woman. She applied to 40 different law firms and was unable to get a single interview even though she was among the top graduates in her class at Stanford. She eventually met a public official with attorneys on staff who agreed to hire her, but told her that he had no more funds for the budget year and didn’t have an office for her. She offered to work for free until some dollars became available and said that she would be willing to share space with his secretary, if his secretary would agree to this. Retired Justice O’Connor got her first job as an attorney by working for free and sharing office space with a secretary, but she went on to become the first woman Supreme Court Justice. She was a pioneer and like other pioneers she was unwilling to take no for an answer. I had the privilege of meeting her in 1990 when she was still on the court and I was a WREI fellow on Capitol Hill.

I have the greatest respect and admiration for pioneering women like Sandra Day O’Connor who are some of the first to enter a career or field. Pioneers have jumped through hoops and opened doors for women in legal fields, medicine, law enforcement, the trades and STEM. The stories of these women pioneers are inspirational, moving, and important to celebrate during Women’s History Month. And I am fortunate to count a number of pioneers among my close friends.

However, I also equally admire the women who follow behind the pioneers. They may not be the first woman in their field or in their position, but they are still the first on their worksite, the first among their friends, the first in their family or just one of very few. Many of these women have the same kind of tenacity that drove Sandra Day O’Connor to succeed, and they are also leading the way for the women and girls that come after them. I would like to recognize all of these women today in this post. The women who make up 11.5% of engineers in the US, 7.5% of installation and maintenance repair workers, 1.6% of automotive service technicians, 20% of computer software engineers, and so forth.

I’ve been privileged to know many women making their own way in male-dominated fields. I’d like to recognize one in particular – Oulekemi (Kemi) Macaulay-Newman. She was an intern at IWITTS many years ago and she now consults nationally on IT security. Originally from Nigeria, she came to the U.S. when she was 14, studied computer science at a local community college, graduated with a B.S. in Mathematics from UC Berkeley, and went on to get a degree in IT security at John Hopkins. Today, at 28, she juggles her roles of IT security professional, business owner (House of Botori), mom to a three-year-old son, wife and daughter. Kemi is not a pioneer – she is not one of the first women to be successful in IT security – but she is still one of very few and she has overcome many challenges to get where she is today. I am proud to be her junior mom in the African tradition and I am proud of ALL the women forging the path for the others that are coming behind them. During this Women’s History Month I would like to recognize women like Kemi who are working in fields where they are still underrepresented – and forging the path for others.

Do you have a woman you’d like to celebrate, please post her story on my blog, I’d love to hear about her.

King Peggy: first woman King in Ghana

I want to highly recommend the book, King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village. I was so moved by the story of Peggielene Bartels, an American secretary for the Ghanaian Embassy who is selected to be king of the small Ghanaian fishing village she was originally from. She agrees to be the king, which is an unpaid position, while continuing her life and job duties in the United States only to find out that the village elders selected her because they want to be able to continue to siphon money away from the community to their personal pockets. King Peggy transforms this small fishing village of 7,000 by standing up to the elders, and using taxes to bring clean water to the village and education to the children. She navigates the male-dominated world of being a king and holds her ground while maintaining her femininity and respecting the traditions of the elders. King Peggy was not raised to be king, yet she figures out how to do so by drawing upon her inner fortitude and religion during difficult moments. Peggielene Bartels proves what a successful king a woman can be.

I’m blogging about King Peggy on Valentine’s Day because this book is really about her love for her people and by the end of the book you can’t help but fall in love with her. She is an amazing woman and very approachable king. I was able to contact her on her Facebook page and I was thrilled when she responded. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.