SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Women make up nearly half of the workforce, but less than 25% are in STEM- related careers.
In fact in 2017, women only accounted for 29% of physical scientists, 27% of computer scientists, and 16% of engineers.
There are also issues in salary: The U.S. Women’s soccer team won the World Cup in 2019, but pay disparities became a bigger headline than the gold trophy. The women took home a prize of $30 million, while the Men’s World Cup prize money was $400 million.
Two local organizations help young girls break those barriers.
“It’s going to look more like this with a light bulb right here and a light bulb right there…so see if you can make that!” explains, Jill Hodge, Troop Leader of the Girl Scouts. Building circuits and wiring electricity on a Saturday, school on the weekend doesn’t typically excite kids, but tucked inside this classroom are the leaders of tomorrow. These girls’ aspirations range from astronomer, to teacher, to NASA scientist! They’re some of the most ambitious girls you’ll ever meet.
Daisy Scout Izzy, is 7 years old, and her role models are Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Her goal is to be the first woman on Mars! “I knew a little fact from Miss Jill and she said that almost all the girl astronauts were actually Girl Scouts,” says Izzy Wilkins, Daisy Scout, 7 year old, and I’ll call it early — first woman to land on Mars!
Jill Hodge is their Girl Scout Troop Leader, and has been a STEM educator for over a decade. She’s also a champion of all things fun in STEM.
She talks about gender stereotypes with her Junior Scouts, “when you ask them ‘have you noticed this yet’ they’ll tell you ‘oh yea boys are the ones that are supposed to be good at sports’ or ‘we’re only supposed to like to do crafts'” she recounts. She works to build confidence and break barriers because she says, “they already feel it.”
“The sky’s the limit, we want to make sure that whatever our girls want to do, we enrich that,” Niki Kiruki is the Director of Programs at the Boys and Girls Club. “We have baseball where girls participate in that. We have flag football, girls participate in that. We have basketball, co-ed teams for that too, and then we have volleyball, so there’s opportunity for our girls to play in sports.”
The club not only gets these ladies to work their muscles, but enrich their minds with coding programs and empowerment summits geared towards girls.
Alissa Schilling is this year’s ‘Youth of the Year’ scholarship recipient, and has been awarded $32,000 to take with her to MSU in the fall. “You can do a lot with a biology degree so if towards the end of college I decide maybe I don’t want to be a dentist, and go into pre-med, I would use that biology degree in conservation, you can get a teaching certification, you can do a lot with it.”
After 10 years of service, she realizes she couldn’t have done it without them, “I just want to say thank you for being so supportive and for being an inspiration to keep going.” And she’s become yet another role model for these leaders of the future.