20160101 OPART STEM
Women make up 26% of STEM related fields, according to United States Department of Labor. SheTech, an upcoming conference at Weber State University looks to encourage high-school-aged girls to get involved in STEM. (Source: Tribune News Service)

The United States Department of Labor reported in 2016 that 57 percent of women participated in the workforce, and that women make up nearly half of the entire workforce. Despite the large number of women working, only 26 percent are working in STEM.

In order to help introduce girls to the STEM field, the first annual all-female STEM conference, called SheTech, will take place at Weber State University on March 31.

Faith Satterthwaite is an instructor at WSU in computer science and the faculty member overseeing the conference.

According to Satterthwaite, SheTech will be a hands-on conference for girls grades 9 through 12. The goal is to expose these girls to STEM and allow them to explore academic and career options.

“We focused on hands-on so the girls can experience it firsthand and see how it pertains to them,” Satterthwaite said. “I don’t think people engage well when a bunch of information is thrown at them.”

Attendees will be able to fill up their morning schedule with two workshops of their choice in various STEM fields, and will then spend the afternoon participating in a tech challenge.

Groups of girls will be presented with a problem to solve during the tech challenge.

Satterthwaite said that the girls will not only brainstorm solutions, but will also be asked to discuss how the solution might be implemented in the real world, as well as how they would pitch it to the market and what potential global impacts the solution could affect.

“Then they present it to the mentors and are judged,” Satterthwaite said. “When they are done, they will be given prizes based on their scores.”

A single-mom to three girls herself, Satterthwaite said computer science was not her first choice at college, but she is thankful to the WSU professor who pointed her in that direction.

“STEM gave me the opportunity to work from home,” Satterthwaite said.

Satterthwaite said that she hopes girls will understand that STEM isn’t limited to sitting behind a computer in a small cubicle but is a broad field that can be exciting and artistic. Also, according to Satterthwaite, on average, those in STEM fields make $15,000 more in starting salaries than those in non-STEM fields.

Those interested in SheTech can still sign up online. The cost for attendees is free and registration will not close until March 29.

Volunteers and mentors are both still needed, and no experience in STEM is required.

Satterthwaite said she encourages girls who aren’t interested in STEM to still come to the event and see what STEM has to offer.

“STEM has helped me,” Satterthwaite said. “So I’d love to see it help some other people.”

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