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Bringing Girls to STEM

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) Governor Branstad promised in his Condition of the State Address to increase education in science and math, promising that 60,000 new students would have access to STEM programs this school year. Part of that effort involved closing the gender gap in STEM-related professions, and the University of Iowa has already started to make progress.

"We really want girls to be able to experience some hands-on things related to science, technology, engineering and math so as they experience that, they get excited and they see "Hey this is cool, I can use this in my daily life, said the Community and STEM Education Manager from the University of Iowa Health Care Jackie Williams.

Thats what Williams calls an Ah-ha moment. Southeast Regional Manager of the Governors STEM Advisory Council Kristine Bullock says it doesnt happen for girls nearly as often as it should. She says even toys that young children play with reinforce old stereotypes.

"Boys' toys are geared towards engineering whereas girls toys at engineered toward playing with Barbie dolls, said Bullock.

Even in college, women make up 60% of the population but account for less than 20% of most STEM-related degrees.

"And so were trying to connect today that yes you can have Barbies and a Barbie house but maybe you'll design that Barbie house, said Bullock.

To do that, they scrubbed up, or put on a lab coat, and found out what it would be like to have a profession in engineering or medicine.

They learned how to do things like take blood pressure and other simple medical skills; all things they wouldnt otherwise learn until they go to college.

Bullock says not having more female engineers and doctors around means were all missing out.

By having more women in the profession, it leads to better products being designed and more innovation is done, said Bullock.

The next step for educators and parents is to make sure that the spark created today doesnt flame out.

Educators say that STEM programs have been more resistant to economic downturns, making them a good career to pursue. They say during the financial crisis in 2008, there were three STEM-related jobs for every job-seeker in the field.
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