ASU joins Million Women Mentors Initiative, encourages women in STEM fields

The College of Technology and Innovation has partnered with the Million Women Mentors initiative, which launched this month in Washington, D.C., to promote young women engaging in science, technology, engineering and mathematics occupations.

ASU is one of 42 organizations working with the initiative to help aid in the goal of establishing 1 million STEM mentors for males and females by 2018.

College of Technology and Innovation Adviser to the Dean Audrey Iffert-Saleem said the partnership would include events hosted at ASU for young women throughout the semester. Two will take place this month as a part of National Mentoring Month.

“What we’re really doing is taking this national initiative and bringing it to life locally,” she said. “A lot of women’s attitudes towards STEM fields form at a very young age, so that’s why we’re hosting these events for grades 2 to 12 as well as high school students.”

Faculty and students will help with the Girl Scout Imagine Engineering and Badge Blast and the SPARK App League Competition Kick Off Competition in January. The latter will be open to both high school boys and girls.

Iffert-Saleem said the college hopes to inspire a skillset in science as it proves to be imperative as time goes on.

“There's a huge gap between women and men that work in STEM fields,” she said. “Seventy-one percent of future jobs will require STEM skills, and just 24 percent of women work in STEM fields currently.”

Iffert-Saleem said STEM fields, in addition to creating economic and social impact, are lucrative. Women in STEM fields earn 92 cents to the dollar of their male counterparts. This is compared to the 75 cents to the dollar of male counterparts in other fields.

Materials science and engineering freshman Anisa Abdul-Quadir said when at engineering camp over the summer the ratio of boys to girls was three to one. She said she believed it to be regrettable that STEM fields have been male-dominated up to this point.

“It’s important that we have a voice and are inputting our ideas,” Abdul-Quadir said. “I think it’s incredibly backwards to believe that women cannot handle pursuing degrees in math or engineering.”

Graphic information technology senior Ashley Yost said she believed initiatives such as this one could only benefit young women in burgeoning tech fields.

“The future of tech and engineering will only be bigger and brighter so women having a role in that will be very substantial,” she said. “The fact that women are working up to a 50/50 potential in these fields is definitely something that should be celebrated.”

Yost, a member of Polytechnic’s Women in Science and Engineering organization, said finding other young women interested in STEM fields can sometimes be a rarity, even at a campus as diverse as ASU’s.

“From experience with my friends, there have been situations where it's two girls from WISE and 18 men in a classroom,” she said. “We want to help anyone enrolled in those degrees know that they can be successful and they will. We have a plethora of women in graphic information technology, environmental science and engineering, robotics, etc. here.”

The college will host the Badge Blast on Jan. 25 and Competition Kickoff on Jan. 31.

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @katie_calderon

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