While the reasons are varied, on average, girls start to lose interest in STEM around the age of 15. Carmen S. Dixon, Ph.D., assistant professor, Science Education, is fighting to ensure that girls know that a future in STEM is possible.
Led by Dixon, Girls in Science Day welcomes girls to campus to explore their interests in STEM. Held annually on campus since 2017, the event welcomes 100 middle school girls from local schools of differing levels of ethnic and socioeconomic diversity for a day of hands-on learning, workshops, and a panel discussion with females in a variety of science fields.
“The girls come to campus and work with female science professors who serve as role models for them. Participants attend three to four workshops and then have lunch. Each workshop is a theme. For example, we’ve done a forensic science theme, and they work together at a mock crime scene,” said Dixon. “A panel discussion is typically held after lunch. The professors talk about their experiences as women in STEM, classes they took, what they do for a living, and how they got to where they are today.”
Through Girls in Science Day, Dixon is working to give girls a glimpse of what their future could be. Even today, women make up only 28 percent of the science workforce.
“The girls really seem to like to see what real scientists do. It can be a lot different than what they experience in science class. They get to learn what scientists do on a daily basis, where they work, and what opportunities they can have if they stick with STEM,” said Dixon. “Sometimes the girls have a skewed view because it’s often portrayed as a very masculine subject.”
Thanks to funding from Battelle’s 2022 STEM Grants Program, there will be two Girls in Science Day events during the 2022-2023 academic year.
“Battelle dedicates our funding toward both creating high-quality STEM education opportunities and ensuring these reach underserved students,” said Wes Hall, vice president of philanthropy and education, Battelle. “Capital University’s local connections and the growing Girls Day in Science are critical resources in these efforts, and we are proud to continue our support for both.”
On December 14, Capital and Dixon will welcome girls to campus for a special experience that highlights the important role of mentors within the STEM community.
“I hope we will keep having quality events that allow girls in the community to be able to come and share their experience and feel valued for what they bring to the table and feel excited about what they can do in the future and what they can contribute to society,” said Dixon. “This year, we’re focusing on mentorship, and we want to make sure that the participants’ voices are heard.”
The STEM Advocacy Institute (SAi) has recently named Dixon a Fellow. She hopes this opportunity will allow her to further develop the Girls in Science Day event. SAi welcomed five new Fellows in the 8th Cohort of its Core Program, which was made possible by a grant from the Lounsbery Foundation.
“Part of my mission with the fellowship is to establish a national program that will teach communities, rural and urban, how to host their own day for their own girls,” Dixon said. “I want to grow this program and really enhance the experience for the participants. Spending time with other girls who share this interest and hearing from women in the field boosts the confidence level of participants as they improve their belief that they can be a scientist.”
Through her own experience teaching in a rural school district, Dixon understands the need for STEM education and the resources required to foster the love of science in girls.
“When they’re the only ones at their schools interested in STEM, it can feel kind of isolating,” Dixon said. “Coming to this event, the girls get to see that it’s okay that they like STEM, and it’s cool.”
To connect with Carmen S. Dixon, Ph.D., visit https://www.capital.edu/academics/faculty/carmen-dixon.
To learn more about Capital’s Girls in Science Day, visit https://stories.capital.edu/2020/03/05/hands-on-opportunities-instill-stem-confidence-in-young-girls/.