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talkSTEM was delighted to partner with the University of Texas at Dallas and sponsor Innovate(her) to reach middle school-aged girls.

Participants in the program spent time with mentors from the community who work in STEAM careers or have started their own companies. The middle schoolers got to hear first-hand how women have overcome challenges and developed their careers or started their businesses. They also took part in workshops that included robotics, careers in esports, entrepreneurship, advanced coding, financial futures, confidence, and more.

A little background: Every spring an award-winning program put on by the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The University of Texas at Dallas kicks off with the goal of introducing and inspiring young girls to pursue professional careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

Innovate(her), underwritten by Capital One’s Future Edge initiative, brings together girls from Dallas-Fort Worth area middle schools to engage with professional women mentors from the community, as well as students from campus, through a series of activities designed to encourage innovative thinking and pique the curiosity of young minds. Participants spend the day cycling through hands-on workshops where they learn about computer coding, design thinking, personal financial management and personal brand development.

What’s Our Why?

The primary force behind launching the program in 2018 was a growing awareness, at the institute and on campus, of the substantial gender disparity in STEM fields. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, despite accounting for over half of the college- educated workforce, women in the United States make up only 27% of those employed in science and engineering occupations. When comparing that percentage to the 8% in the 1970s, it seems like as a country, we are moving in the right direction. However with the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting employment in the United States will grow from 162.8 million to 168.8 million over the 2019-29 decade (3.7 percent), and computing occupations projected to grow at a substantially faster rate of 11% it’s extremely important to begin making a positive impact in the areas of a young woman’s STEM career journey early.

After taking into account the hard data, our institute team did some self-reflecting. UT Dallas was born from the minds of entrepreneurial engineers; entrepreneurship is in our DNA. With a nationally ranked entrepreneurship program and one of the top engineering and computer science schools in the country, we felt a sense of duty to utilize our campus resources to help close the gap, starting with the schools in our Richardson, Texas, backyard.

2021 and Beyond

The spring 2021 Innovate(her) program had many firsts for our team. It was the first time programming went completely online and the first time we were able to have students attend from outside of the DFW Metroplex — a cool tradeoff. We introduced new programming, such as logo design/digital art, interviewing tips and tricks, and college readiness, in an effort to expand our STEM focus to STEAM (“A” represents the arts). In total, we had more than13 virtual sessions and 60 volunteers from across the University, Capital One and our community ensuring we cultivated a sense of belonging despite having to go virtual.

Dresden Goldberg, the institute’s director of programs and operations, said she hopes that next year’s program will be back in person, with many of the same popular session topics, but wants to continue to offer a virtual/live stream option to expand beyond our DFW borders furthering our reach to middle schools that might be struggling to offer their students STEM opportunities.

For more information about Innovate(her) visit innovation.utdallas.edu/innovateher

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About the Founder & CEO

Dr. Koshi Dhingra has dedicated her career to STEM education and is passionate about having every child live up to their potential. Seeing a lack of girls and other underrepresented youth in STEM programs, she founded talkSTEM in 2015 to address the imbalance. She has a doctorate in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University, has years of experience teaching in graduate and undergraduate programs, and has held leadership roles in universities. She advises and collaborates with a broad range of educational institutions globally. Dr. Dhingra began her career teaching science in middle and high school in New York. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, three children, and two dogs.

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