Kimberly Hoeppner keeps children’s heads in the clouds. The meteorologist from the National Weather Service was teaching girls about clouds and more weather phenomena on Saturday.
The girls, in kindergarten through 12th grade, spent the day at the University of Alaska Anchorage getting a hands-on introduction to science.
“Science and technology really are the careers of the future,” Girls Scouts of Alaska CEO Sue Perles said, “and we know women are underrepresented in these fields and we want girls to feel welcome. We want girls to know they can do whatever it is they want to do.”
Women in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) jobs often experience more discrimination and harassment in the workplace than their males counterparts. A 2018 report from the Pew Research Center states that gender was seen as an impediment rather than an advantage to career success.
The report points to an interactive data set showing the statistics of underrepresented women and minorities in tech companies created by the Wall Street Journal in 2016. Big-name companies are listed, including Microsoft with only 17 percent women of its nearly 60,000 employees in 2015.
UAA’s chancellor Dr. Cathy Sandeen said she hopes the Saturday event recruits the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
“Where we can have a lot of young women come to our campus, and get inspired, and think about going into those fields. That’s the future, they’re the future students of UAA,” Sandeen said.
In another session, girls learned how light affects the colors we see, as part of their introduction to chromatography. Markers and water helped them learn how the components react to each other.
“I never thought that colors with just a bit of water would mix like that. I think it’s really pretty especially with how my galaxy turned out,” said a young girl named Trianna.
According to another article from the Pew Research Center, women have made gains since 1990 in the life sciences and math occupations. In both, women make up around 46 percent of the work force.
With hard work and women scientists like Hoeppner to set the example, girls like Trianna can start to envision a future for themselves in STEM.