Since its inception in 1912, Girl Scouts USA has promoted female empowerment through developing their full potential, fostering empathy for others, instilling a meaningful set of values to drive their choices in life, and contributing to the betterment of society. The Girl Scout motto, “be prepared,” gets right to the heart of the organization’s mission to teach young girls how to grow up to be strong and fearless leaders. In today’s changing economy, we need those fearless leaders to help move us into a future that will be filled with science and technology jobs.
Today, there is a notable gap in the amount of females taking leadership roles in STEM careers. A research effort lead by Microsoft found that only a fraction of girls and women today are likely to pursue degrees and careers in STEM. According to the study, “girls and young women have a hard time picturing themselves in STEM roles.” In order to increase their interest and pursuit of STEM, girls need more exposure to STEM jobs, more female role models, and more awareness and planning to drive them to STEM education and careers.
Over the past few years, Girl Scouts has encouraged its Scouts to become more involved in STEM learning and life-changing skills through the creation of badges and related programs. Currently, Girl Scouts has 36 badges within the STEM category, which can be earned through developing valuable technology and computer skills, video game development, and financial literacy. Scouts can also hear and learn from female industry experts, who inspire and mentor Scouts to chase after their own dreams.
The Girl Scouts of Greater New York held their second annual STEM Expo at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City on June 24. SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson was asked to speak to those in attendance and was honored to do so. It’s not every day you have the chance to talk to nearly 200 of our future STEM leaders in one room.
Chancellor Johnson gave the girls a little history of how she got to where she is today. “When I started college in the 1970s, I didn’t look like a typical electrical engineering student. Most were men. At the time, I never thought I could be a professor, or a dean, or a provost, or a chancellor – because I never saw a woman in those roles,” she said. “Today, things have changed. And I’m here to tell you that you can do it, too.”
She also shared how SUNY wants to help ensure that anyone who dreams of studying and working in STEM can achieve that goal, and those efforts are continuing to grow. From expanding our faculty to be more inclusive of women and minorities in the STEM fields to serve as role models, to expanding individualized education for students which would let them optimize their SUNY education without being burdened by stereotypes of the past such as those that tell us boys are better than girls at math and science. This is an ideal that Chancellor Johnson firmly believes in.
“We think about why more girls and women aren’t going into STEM, and I think it’s because we don’t have enough role models,” Chancellor Johnson said. “That’s why I’m thrilled to be the chancellor of the State University of New York, and be a role model… to be someone that you can see. Because it’s actually pretty easy. The only thing you really have to do is keep on going. If someone ever says you can’t, yes… you… can.”
At SUNY, our colleges and universities can help you get there.
Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.