Archive for 'Gender Diversity in STEM'

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:

2) Join the conversation and like us on Facebook at

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  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.

Gender Diversity in STEM. Why Bother?

How does gender diversity benefit STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math)?

A key goal in STEM education is “broadening opportunities and enabling the participation of all citizens–women and men, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities,” according to the National Science Foundation. Similarly, President Obama’s recently launched “Educate to Innovate” campaign cites, “expand STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and girls” as one of its three goals.

Why is gender diversity in STEM important? First, why do YOU think it’s important?, see our quick poll below with a $600 raffle prize (registration for a WomenTech Training).  I’d love your opinion.

Here’s why Donna Milgram thinks gender diversity in STEM is important.

The absence of women from STEM education and careers affects more than the women; it is a missed opportunity for those fields. Women bring a different perspective that shapes and influences STEM disciplines. Research shows that women — as a group — have a greater interest than males in how technology will be applied, in particular to help others, and women naturally have a greater understanding of what is important to and appeals to women.

Here are just two examples of how women in STEM enhance the field from a substantive perspective.

  • Dr. Bernadine Healy, the first woman to direct the National Institutes of Health (NIH), established a policy whereby the NIH would only fund clinical trials that included both men and women when the condition being studied affected both genders. Prior to this requirement, many NIH clinical trials did not include women, and subsequently research recommendations did not take into account the differing biology of women and men, and in some cases made recommendations harmful to women.
  • The Zimmer® Gender Solutions™ Knee, which was originally conceived of by a woman engineer. Nearly two-thirds of knee replacements in the U.S. are done on women; however, until the Gender Knee was developed the model for a knee implant was a male knee, which often did not fit the shape and size of women’s anatomy. The Gender Knee is specifically designed to fit the average woman and is a much more successful implant as a result.

Having more women in the picture will not only help women themselves — it will also help society benefit from their expertise — whether it’s ensuring women are included in clinical trials or developing a prosthetic knee that works better for women. We are all enriched when women fully contribute to the advancement of science and technology.

Take our One Question Poll – Why Women in STEM is Important?.