Columbus ranks 19th on the U.S. job market list for STEM professionals, and yet, less than a third of students who identify as women choose to study higher education courses in STEM subjects. Deirdre DeWeese ’99, who studied public relations at Capital, is trying to change that through her role as vice president of Philanthropy for the Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland (GSOH).
“Girl’s confidence peaks by age 9, and it doesn’t reach that again in their lifetime until they’re in their 40s. Confidence is critical, and their STEM identity is formed by the third grade. If we don’t reach them early, we’re already missing the opportunity,” said DeWeese.
“We [women] make up about 50 percent of the workforce, and yet, in STEM careers women, make up only about 28 percent of the workforce. If you look at STEM leadership, that number drops even more drastically down to 18 percent.”
Nationally, the Girl Scouts of the USA has challenged itself to add 2.5 million girls to the STEM pathway by 2025. In Central Ohio, GSOH has answered the call with the Dream Big Transformational Initiative, a 220-acre immersive STEM and Leadership Campus in Western Franklin County at Camp Ken-Jockety.
“Columbus is such a growing market. With Intel coming, Google and Meta here, along with Amazon, we have so many businesses that are growing, but do we have the workforce that’s going to be able to fill those jobs?” said DeWeese. “Tammy Wharton, our president and CEO, and I went on a community listening tour to see what needs there are and how Girl Scouts can be part of the solution. We know that STEM is really important to this community.”
The STEM Leadership Center & Maker Space will include:
- Community space, science and technology labs
- Maker Space to learn trade skills like welding, mechanics and carpentry
- Greenhouse for gardening programs, including hydroponics
- Renovations to the Environmental Center to include the addition of a teaching kitchen for farm-to-table programming
- Outdoor learning spaces
“This is a community resource. We’re not doing this alone. We are experts in girls, but we’re not experts in cyber security. We’ll bring somebody in to help us facilitate that part of it. For example, we’ll talk to Honda about a great automotive program. We’ll bring in those key partners,” said DeWeese. “The Girl Scouts were founded in 1912, and we’ve had STEM as one of our pillars ever since. We actually had the electrician badge back in 1918.”
GSOH covers 30 counties and “on average serves about 15,000 girls with the help of between 4,000 to 5,000 amazing volunteers. We could not do our work without those amazing volunteers who serve as mentors and troop leaders.
“The Dream Big Transformational Initiative is a $16 million campaign and, so far, we’ve raised $13.2 million. We’re working really hard to get to the finish line to close this campaign out. Construction is happening, but we need those last dollars to make sure that we have all the program pieces and supplies,” said DeWeese.
DeWeese figured out she wanted to work in the nonprofit world as a Capital student.
“I had some great professors at Capital who really helped develop what my career pathway was going to be. I did a radio class; I don’t know if Capital still offers it. The show was called ‘Skyline Columbus’ and it was broadcast locally. I was the executive producer and in charge of creating the content for each show,” said DeWeese. “I reached out to a lot of nonprofits locally in Columbus, because I knew nonprofits have tiny budgets and don’t necessarily have the best opportunities or resources to share their stories. Through that class, I kind of fell in love with the nonprofit sector. I really knew that was my career path.”
For 24 years and counting, DeWeese has worked with nonprofits to create a positive impact in her community. She has served in many different roles, including senior development officer at Franklin Park Conservatory and development officer at the Mount Carmel Foundation.
“If you look at COVID, everything was shutting down, but nonprofits were busier than ever,” said DeWeese. “Nonprofits serve the community in the best possible way. They know what to do and know how to do it best.”
To learn more about Deirdre DeWeese, visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/deirdre-deweese-575b5435/.
To learn more about the Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland Dream Big Transformational Initiative, visit https://www.gsoh.org/en/support-us/dream-big.html.
To learn more about science at Capital, visit https://www.capital.edu/academics/biological-and-environmental-science/.