Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel to space and noted physicist, hosted a roundtable event on December 8, 2009 in Palo Alto, CA discussing gender equality in math and science education. Sponsored by ExxonMobil the event brought together female executives such as Judy Estrin of JLabs and Kim Perdikou of Juniper Networks to discuss ways to inspire young girls into math and science centered careers. Women hold about 25% of the jobs in science, technology and engineering, very few of them being in the top tiers of those industries.
“Our workforce needs more scientists and engineers, and specifically, more women pursuing these important fields of study,” said Estrin, a roundtable panelist from JLabs. “It’s time to focus on engaging young women in these areas.”
The roundtable was the first of several scheduled across the United States discussing possible solutions to the declining interest and enrollment in math and science centered programing for young adults, especially women. According to the National Science Foundation, women represent only 46 percent of the workforce, but 25 percent of those women hold careers dedicated to science, engineering, and technology. President and CEO of Sally Ride Science, Dr. Ride believes that it’s essential to bring people together to tackle this critical issue and search for ways to diversify the math and science industry.
“ExxonMobil is passionate about preparing young people, particularly girls, for careers in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Penny Wirsing, environmental group leader for ExxonMobil in Torrance, CA. “These roundtable discussions were created to encourage and enhance education initiatives for future scientists and engineers, and ignite interest and participation of local communities, elected officials and corporations across the country.”
Continuing this year in Boston, Atlanta and Washington D.C. business community leaders, educators, and government officials will be invited into this vital discussion to share views on how to initially engage young women and keep their interest in industries involving math, science, and technology. To assist in this effort Dr. Ride announced the partnership The Sally Ride Science Academy also sponsored by ExxonMobil. The partnership will provide a week long training program for educators in ways to encourage and stimulate their students interest in math and science education through programs that will make math and science relevant and curriculum augmentation. Teachers will also be given constructive feedback training, and gender equality training to help foster an encouraging and collaborative learning environment.
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