Heather Reflects on International Day of Women and Girls in Science
International Day of Women and Girls in Science was declared by the United Nations as a day to recognize the role females play in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Held on February 11th of each year, this day showcases women’s accomplishments in these industries in the hopes of inspiring youth and reaching the United Nations’ goal of gender equality across all industries by 2030.
According to a study the United Nations conducted in 14 countries, the probability of women graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in a science-related field is only 18% whereas males are almost 40% likely (UN, 2018). Why are women less likely to go earn a degree in a science-related field?
Heather Andrus, Managing Director of Radius and Jabil Joule located at our Silicon Valley site, believes it might have to do with the way these courses are taught in primary school. “I believe our children’s education is a crucial resource for inspiring the young girls to have an interest in science or mathematics,” said Andrus. She goes on to explain how her middle school math teacher played a key role in her passion for STEM. “I think his style of teaching is what resonated with me the most. He would make us think creatively and collaboratively to solve these tough equations, and those skills are what every job in STEM requires,” she said. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! “Right now, my oldest daughter is in middle school and her favorite instructor is her math teacher,” Heather says proudly. “She tells me that he also teaches her class to think abstractly rather than just memorize formulas and reproduce them. He gives the class an ‘unsolvable equation’ and works with them to find different ways to solve it.”
One of Two Females in Class
Heather decided to be an engineer during her school’s annual Career Day. As a 7th grader, she read how engineers were one of three high-salaried careers at the time, electrical engineering was the toughest specification and MIT was the best school, so she decided right then that was going to be her career path. However, it wasn’t a popular goal for many of her classmates: “I just don’t think it was ‘cool’ to like math or science in middle and high school,” Heather stated. She goes on to explain how she was one of only two women in her undergraduate engineering class of 70 students. Heather graduated from MIT with bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering and then went on to earn a dual master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Product Design from Stanford.
“Females are clearly just as capable, but I think there’s a disconnect between girls’ natural abilities and the careers they’re told they can have.” Heather reaffirms the importance of making it known at an early age how the STEM industry is an imaginative and abstract field of study. “It also has a lot to do with how the female brain is wired because research shows how our brains work in a more creative way compared to the male brain,” Heather said. “Personally, I think math and science just aren’t typically taught in congruence with how the female brain operates. We need to get the creative juices flowing early in life and show girls how ‘cool’ STEM can be!”
Inspire and Educate
Heather, like many of our Joules around the world, recognize the importance of education for the future of girls in STEM. It’s up to us, not only on International Day of Women and Girls in Science, but every day, to inspire and connect future Joules, so they too can be successful and confident in their science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.