Girls of Promise® is proven to encourage girls to continue pursuing higher-level science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses past eighth grade, with goals towards careers in these fields.
Since 1999, more than 5,000 eighth-grade girls have been introduced to women with careers in STEM fields, participated in hands-on learning activities, and met other girls passionate about learning through their participation at Girls of Promise® conferences.
Why STEM? Why Girls?
Findings were reported in 2000 that girls were being actively dissuaded by educators and parents from pursuing higher levels of math and science education. Then in 2010, the American Association of University Women’s Why So Few? report found that both environmental and social barriers — including stereotypes, gender bias, and the climate of science and engineering departments in colleges and universities — continue to block women’s progress in STEM.
Why Eighth Grade?
Girls of Promise® aims to encourage girls at a time in their life when they tend to lose interest in STEM education. Eighth grade is a pivotal age when girls begin to internalize negative stereotypes that discourage academic achievement and denigrate those who do not conform to peer expectations and social pressures. During high school, fewer girls than boys enroll in advanced science and math courses. Frequently, those who do express interest in these disciplines are discouraged by teachers, counselors, family, or friends who may not view these areas as viable fields of study for girls.
Educators from around the state recommend high-achieving girls to attend a Girls of Promise® conference for two days of activities focused on the importance of higher education and the payoff of hard work (and fun). Girls meet others like themselves and realize it’s okay to be a bright, motivated person with big dreams. They also meet and learn from women with amazing careers such as scientists, welders, physicians, computer systems engineers, and coders.
“I will remember the speakers in breakout sessions – hearing from women of diverse career and cultural backgrounds. They are great role models – intelligent, beautiful, and inspiring women. I loved how specific the breakout speakers were about their education and the actual pathway to their careers; personal stories are so powerful. The keynote speaker was amazing! How wonderful this organization is to encourage young girls to pursue careers in STEM.”
~ Girls of Promise® Chaperone
The Women’s Foundation completed an ambitious research project in June 2010 which culminated in a 36-page Impact Assessment of Girls of Promise® from 2000 to 2009. A cadre of volunteers helped conduct the research, inputting data from the first 10 years of Girls of Promise® conferences and contacting alumnae to determine the impact of the program on their lives.
Clinton School of Public Service graduate Joanna Klak analyzed the data and penned the report. Data showed that the program works – that Girls of Promise® does indeed encourage the state’s young women to remain in high school and further their studies of STEM fields through post-secondary education. Evaluation tools continue to be an integral part of each conference and continued impact samplings are in progress.