New STEM program for girls focuses on careers


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— Do you know how many scents make up your favorite fragrance? Or how millions of cookies can be made in a week? More importantly, do you know that scientists and engineers tackle these and other questions that affect you every day?

On Saturday, September 17, female professionals who do exactly those things will participate in the first DreamDay Workshop hosted by The DreamGirls Initiative. The workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Sparta Middle School, 350 Main Street, Sparta. Girls in sixth through eighth grade are invited to attend this free event.

Among companies participating in the workshop are Pepperidge Farm, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, and Firmenich, the world’s largest flavor and fragrance company. Girls will get the opportunity to interact with industry professionals through hands-on activities. Participants will also receive free giveaways.

The DreamGirls Initiative is a new nonprofit program serving Sparta and the surrounding communities. The aim of the program is to expose girls ages 11-14 to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in inspiring and interactive ways.

Founder and President Rashmi Drummond hopes to slash stereotypes commonly associated with professionals in STEM, while providing a positive message. Says Drummond, “girls have a lot of great ideas about how to make the world better, and pursuing a career in STEM is a great way to make those ideas a reality. There’s just a common misconception about what kinds of things scientists and engineers do, and DreamGirls plans to change that message.”

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, over the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs. STEM workers also command higher wages, while experiencing less joblessness. Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. This has been the case throughout the past decade, even as college educated women have increased their share of the overall workforce.

But the real question is, why is there such a discrepancy in women pursuing STEM careers? Extensive research has been conducted by numerous organizations including Girl Scouts, universities, and the federal government with regards to the gender discrepancy in STEM. “The overarching conclusion,” Drummond said, “is that girls are interested in science and math, and the majority want to make a difference in the world and to help people. They just don’t know that science and engineering are pathways to help them meet their goals. STEM professionals work in dynamic environments and are charged with solving the world’s problems. We need to get that message out.”

Drummond has a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degrees in Chemical Engineering and had a successful career in the food industry. Since leaving the corporate world to raise her three children, she has been active in the Sparta community where she was a Girl Scout leader for 15 years and an active supporter of the Boy Scout program. She has also provided support and leadership in other community organizations, including the Parent Teacher Organizations and the Junior Woman’s Club of Sparta.

Supporting girls in STEM is nothing new to Drummond. While in college, she co-founded a social sorority for women in Engineering called Phi Sigma Rho. The sorority is now national and is on 37 campuses and has over 4000 actives and alumnae. “I am able to tap into this network of young women engineers to help DreamGirls change the face of STEM.”

The first phase of this movement began on social media in February, where The DreamGirls Initiative highlights exciting careers and STEM discoveries. These posts expose followers to the vast opportunities available to STEM professionals and stresses the DreamGirls’ tagline, “because dreams need doing”.

The first Dream Day workshop in September will take this philosophy one step further. Women scientists and engineers representing various industries will provide hands on activities to highlight what they do at work every day. “This is the heart of the whole initiative – showing girls first-hand how they can make a difference in people’s lives.”

The event is free, however registration is required. Online registration can be completed at <URL destination="http://tinyurl.com/DreamDay2016. ">tinyurl.com/DreamDay2016.

</URL>The DreamGirls Intiative is also seeking STEM professionals and sponsors who would like to support future workshops. Additional information can be requested by emailing dreamsneeddoing@gmail.com.



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