STEM Spotlight: Interview with National Girls Collaborative Project

The vision of the NGCP is to bring together organizations throughout the United States that are committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). We talked to Kate Goddard, Outreach and Online Communications Manager, to find out more about what NGCP is doing to achieve its goal.

There’s a shortage of women in STEM careers; what is your organization’s unique role in addressing this issue?

The National Girls Collaborative Project was formed in 2002 to address this very issue: how can we increase opportunities for girls to pursue STEM careers? At that time we were hearing from programs that were running STEM programs for girls that they didn’t have a community to connect with to share best practices and to learn from. At the same time we were hearing from businesses and professional organizations that had the capacity and resources to inspire girls in STEM, but they didn’t know how to reach the girls.

So we set out to build a network and have been working to bring together organizations that are committed to encouraging girls to pursue STEM careers ever since. By focusing on collaboration, we are able to maximize access to shared resources, strengthen the capacity of programs that serve girls by sharing best practices and research, and ultimately we hope to use the leverage of this network to create the tipping point for gender equity in STEM.

What have you discovered to be effective in helping connect girls and women to STEM studies and careers?

Since our work is focused on building the capacity of programs that serve girls in STEM, we have developed a collection of exemplary practices for engaging girls in STEM that we share with programs in our network through the NGCP website, national webinars and our monthly e-newsletter. This collection of resources highlights research based strategies that help make the connection between STEM and future educational and career pathways for girls.

Additionally, research shows that one of the ways to inspire girls to pursue STEM careers is by connecting them to role models. FabFems, a project of the NGCP, is an online database of women in STEM careers who are interested in being those role models. Any girl or girl serving organization can visit, search for FabFems and make connections to empowering role models.

How does your approach change when focusing on youth versus adults?

The NGCP is a network of programs and organizations committed to increasing opportunities for girls in STEM that includes educators, higher education faculty, industry leaders, community-based organizations and government agencies. With these groups we have found that the NGCP collaboration model has benefited programs by increasing their efficiency and effectiveness, which leads to more opportunities for girls to experience STEM.

What milestones have you already reached or are you currently moving towards?

This September we celebrated our 12th anniversary and are thrilled that in these 12 years we have been able to establish a network that includes 31 Collaboratives, serving 39 states and working together we are facilitating collaboration between more than 12,800 organizations, serving more than 8.5 million girls (and almost 5 million boys as well!).

How can schools, professional organizations and companies work together to empower women entering STEM?

We believe that by bringing stakeholders invested in empowering girls in STEM together through collaboration we will create the tipping point for gender equity in STEM. For example, we know that many afterschool programs know how to facilitate great STEM programming, but they are often searching for role models who can inspire their girls to think about STEM careers. We also know there are a number of STEM professional networks, like the Society of Women Engineers, that have these great role models. By helping to make connections between these groups through our network and program activities, both groups benefit and the girls are better served.

Our Program Directory is one tool that helps make these connections. This database of youth-serving programs allows users to share resources and learn from others who are working towards the goal of inspiring more women and girls to pursue STEM careers. Anyone can join and search the directory for free, and each program entry includes valuable information such as contact information, program descriptions, populations served, and service delivery format.

For more information check out our full feature piece, 15 Innovative Initiatives Bringing Women Into STEM as well as the National Girls Collaborative Project website.

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