Confidence, Diversity, and a Foundation for Change in the Dallas STEM Pipeline
The numbers tell one story-- 67% of eighth grade girls in Texas are not proficient in math and 57% of girls in Texas are not interested in a career in STEM.
But the Girl Scouts STEM Center of Excellence, a 92-acre living laboratory just 20 minutes from downtown Dallas that teaches girls both the hard and soft skills critical for success in STEM, college, and careers, are working to change that narrative and the career paths for thousands of girls in Dallas.
Research shows that girls are keenly interested in STEM and excel at it, but by the age of 6, girls are less likely than boys to believe that their gender is “really smart.” This fact holds true later in life when girls don’t pursue careers in STEM. Nationwide, women make up more than 50% of the population but account for only 24% of STEM professionals, even though women in STEM jobs earn 33% more than women in comparable positions.
Meanwhile, Texas, and the rest of the country, is facing a critical skills gap: there are currently 715,000 vacant STEM positions in Texas, and the U.S. will need 1 million more STEM professionals than it can provide in the next 10 years. In today’s economy, STEM skills are career survival skills.
Employers Leading the Way
In 2010, Texas Instruments, headquartered in Dallas, approached the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas with a problem: by 2020, they would not have enough engineers to hire. Recognizing the Girl Scouts as the experts in girls, the Girl Scouts were uniquely positioned to partner with the Dallas community to help grow girls’ confidence in STEM while closing the gender gap in the STEM workforce pipeline.
With the support of technology corporations like Texas Instruments, Ericsson, and AT&T, as well as foundations and individuals, the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas raised $14 million in funding to build the STEM Center of Excellence at Camp Whispering Cedars, which officially opened in May 2018 and features STEM programming in robotics, botany, coding, and chemistry as well as traditional camp activities like archery, swimming, and ropes courses.
But the business partnerships didn’t end with writing a check.
As part of Ericsson’s commitment to increase the number of women in their workforce to 30% by 2020, Ericsson laid the next-generation fiber connections and hardwiring for all 92-acres of the STEM Center of Excellence to help bring the girls’ STEM creations to life.
Texas Instruments built the Texas Instruments Innovation Center, which houses robotics teams and design process small groups. Both Texas Instruments and Ericsson’s employees volunteer their time as volunteers and mentors, hosting job-shadowing days to show girls the careers possible through STEM.
The Girls Scouts of Northeast Texas also partnered with local colleges and universities such as UT Dallas, UT Arlington, Southern Methodist University, and Texas A&M to provide instructional materials and training both for the Girl Scouts and the troop leaders.
Countering the state and nationwide statistics, the girls who have attended the STEM Center of Excellence are proof that exposure to STEM in a safe environment can positively impact career pathways. An astounding 88 percent of girls who went to the STEM Center of Excellence reported increased interest in STEM careers, and 91 percent of girls reported increased confidence in STEM.
By working to close the gender gap in STEM-related fields and foster a long overdue leadership pipeline in Dallas, the Girl Scouts STEM Center of Excellence is a shining example of the positive educational outcomes that happen when businesses engage with their communities.
Achieving Tomorrow’s Voices highlight the impact educators, administrators, community leaders, parents, and businesses can have when they join forces to help students succeed.