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Giving back to STEM: A young woman uses her experience to encourage others

February 07, 2019

youth in classroom working together in science class engineering a small productThe demand for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals continues to rise. Between now and 2024, the number of STEM-related jobs could increase by 17 percent, compared with just 12 percent for non-STEM-related jobs. Despite the promising job outlook, however, women have been less likely than men to pursue careers in these fields. Many companies and organizations have been trying to address this gender gap in the workplace.

Johnson & Johnson, for instance, is working with FHI 360, the Smithsonian Science Education Center and JA Worldwide to change this reality. They have created the Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Manufacturing and Design (WiSTEM2D) project to inspire and advance STEM education for one million girls between the ages of five and 18 by 2020. WiSTEM2D strives to cultivate interest in these areas from an early age, supporting a robust STEM2D education and positioning young women for careers in these fields. This global project increases young women’s STEM2D knowledge, boosts logical reasoning and develops skills in creative thinking, problem solving and collaboration.

Launched in 2016, WiSTEM2D builds on the success of another Johnson & Johnson and FHI 360 college and career readiness project, Bridge to Employment (BTE). BTE works with students ages 14 to 18 in disadvantaged communities in the United States and across the globe to mentor them in health and STEM2D careers and educational opportunities beyond secondary school.

Mariah Rohan, from North Plainfield, New Jersey, was one of those students. When Mariah was a high school freshman seven years ago, she reluctantly participated in her school’s BTE project. At that time, she felt unsure about her academic interests and future career path. She never imagined that today she would be preparing for an internship — and possibly a career — with Johnson & Johnson.

“Johnson & Johnson and FHI 360’s projects helped us see our own value,” Mariah explained. “Even if we didn’t get straight A’s, we were important and had something to offer in our future careers.”

Drawing on her experience, Mariah helped to create an Ignite Activity for the WiSTEM2D project, which aims to spark students’ interest in STEM2D careers. Mariah’s activity, “Up with Gas,” encourages students to apply their science knowledge, critical thinking and observation skills to examine how a chemical reaction inflates a balloon.

The WiSTEM2D website includes a wealth of classroom activities and information for volunteers as well as educators. In addition to the Ignite Activities, the site also has the SPARK WiSTEM2D Resource, which empowers volunteers to embark on this journey of inspiring students. The activities target different ages and topics, and all the lesson plans and activities are free to download.

Today, Mariah can proudly say she has a plan. The college student and young professional clearly sees herself as a successful woman with a STEM2D career.

“I can only see growth. Before, I always thought about the negative and now I can only see progression. I feel like my life can only go up from here because of these programs and because of STEM.”


Photo credit: Getty Images