<b>By: Ivan K. Hopkins and Derek T. Dingle</b>
At this year's Women of Power Summit, BLACK ENTERPRISE produced with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a special symposium on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math): “Educating Our Daughters: Preparing Female Students to Become 21st Century Leaders.” Immediately following that session, BE and the Gates Foundation convened a Thought Leaders Dinner in which attendees held further discussions on the topic as well as agreed to make year-long commitments to develop initiatives to feed the STEM pipeline. Here are the action items that evolved from that meeting of the minds.
Pat Hughes, Spelman College President Beverly Tatum (middle) and Socially Ahead Founder S. Lynn Cooper (right) were among dinner guests who made such commitments.
One focused on each member "adopting" a student to pay for resources related to STEM coursework, including books, lab costs and tutoring services. Other efforts called for raising funds through outreach to foundations and business networks as well as building an online crowdfunding platform similar to Kickstarter.
Sandra Finley, president and CEO, League of Black Women, pledged to find an elementary or high school that will allow her to test STEM clusters, and will find female study groups that would provide support from grade school through college.
Alfred Edmond Jr., BE's SVP/Chief Content Officer, discussed
organizing a STEM Careers Day featuring black female science and technology professionals who can serve as role models and potential mentors. First stop: Rosa Parks Middle School in Orange, New Jersey. He will also secure support of the local chapter of National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) to help establish an annual school event and expand the program to other schools.
Suzanne Walsh of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged to get more women in the Seattle area to support efforts of the Technology Access Foundation.
Audra Bohannon, senior partner, Korn\Ferry Leadership Talent Consulting, and a board member of the Accelerated College Experience at Boston's Roxbury Community College, says she will use her position to get 50 students a year college ready as well as introduce STEM into the curriculum. She plans to promote the idea during the board's strategic retreat this Spring.
Atira Charles, assistant professor of management at Florida State University and CEO of consulting firm Think Actuality, has instituted what she calls "Dr. C's Assessment", which helps young women with educational programming and empowerment. As such, she pledged to include STEM materials in her program.
Debra Gray-Young, vice president & media director for Burrell Communications Group L.L.C ( No. 3 on the BLACK ENTERPRISE ADVERTISING List) and one of BE's Top Women Executives in Advertising & Marketing, shared her plan to coach at least one student per quarter in STEM.
In addition to providing mentorship and scholarship opportunities for students pursuing STEM studies, Lisa Williams, Ph.D., founder & CEO of World of EPI Inc. will design a series of Positively Perfect dolls that promote careers in science and technology. She believes the initiative will encourage girls to think about such opportunities at earlier stages in their academic lives.
Pysche Terry, president of Urban Intimates, will establish internships for two students pursuing undergraduate STEM-oriented degrees, specifically in the areas of skin care product development, logistics and supply chain management.
Lockheed Martin's Chief Medical Officer Marleece Barber has agreed to secure the support of her colleagues to drive the STEM initiative. Barber, who is also a songwriter/composer, will create a tune reminiscent of “School House Rock” used to promote STEM careers among grade-school girls.
Hilda Hutcherson, associate dean for Diversity & Multicultural Affairs at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, will work with other educators to develop an HBCU alumni network comprised of STEM program graduates to provide guidance to students through one-on-one mentorship and social media.
These STEM professionals would also be included in a marketing campaign to promote the value of the field to K -12 students.
Janice Johnson Dias, president of the Grassroots Community Foundation, will initiate "Trailblazers", a five-week summer camp "focused on math and science through a cultural lens." Each participant will have to take a sugar pledge to not consume foods with the substance for the length of the program. She seeks to redefine what it means to be a FAST – finance, arts, science and technology – student.
Students who attended the dinner also made commitments to the cause. For example, Jainabou Barry, who attends Spelman College, will continue to actively mentor middle-school students and engage girls of color to participate in existing programs like Black Girls Code. Another student, Darrica Byrd, a biology and chemistry major at Johnson C. Smith University, pledges to mentor five students who attend Sterling Elementary School in Charlotte, North Carolina every Saturday for six months. With support from the school, she will hold a college fair for those students after the six-month period.
Audrey Hines, board chair of the National Black MBA Association, will stress the expansion of the STEM component of her organization's Leaders of Tomorrow program.