We live in a world where it is hard to escape stories about celebrities, negative gossip, trash, and superficial issues. The younger generation are growing up only knowing a world saturated by social and digital media which filters through every aspect of our lives. The old “if it bleeds, it leads” saying about journalism and news has become a daily reality because of the internet, but in a way that makes it hard to filter through to the positive and inspiring news.
As a result the role models and public figures who often get the most headlines and airtime can often be the people who aren’t necessarily who we want our children to grow up emulating. So where do we find the people who we DO want to have an impact on our kids, outside of our own communities and families?
This is where people like Stephanie Espy come in. She is a chemical engineer, a mother, and a woman on a mission to ensure a generation of young girls have a powerful resource to find role models and inspirational women to emulate. She is the author of a new book called ‘Stem Gems’, which profiles 44 successful women across the science, tech, engineering and math industries.
Her passion to create this book came from a very personal place. Being one of the 19% of women who earn bachelor’s degrees in engineering, and one of only 3% of that number who are minorities, she has felt the gender gap first hand having been in classrooms where she can count on one hand the number of women in the room.
A recent study shared by the Harvard Business Review found STEM degrees are the most lucrative among graduates in the US. While the gender ratio split in college is 60% male and 40% women and even closer at the PhD level, it’s after graduation that the gap starts to get bigger.
“Over time, those talented women with their PhD in STEM start to drop out of technical and industrial careers. By the time careers reach leadership levels, as few as 15% of those talented women remain, according to some estimates,” said Athena Vongalis-Macrow, who cites sexism as one of the numerous reasons this trend occurs.
According to the National Girls Collaborative Project and the National Science Foundation, women make up 47 percent of the U.S. workforce but dismal percentages in STEM fields: 18 percent of computer scientists are women, 18 percent of physicists are women and 19 percent of engineers are women. More specifically, within engineering, 10 percent of chemical engineers are women, 12 percent of civil engineers are women and 7 percent of mechanical engineers are women.
“Fortunately for me, I grew up with strong STEM influences. Both of my parents are engineers. Two of my three siblings have STEM degrees. Uncles, aunts and cousins are scientists, programmers, engineers and mathematicians. I’ve been lucky to have so many role models in my reach,” she said in a press release about the book.
She wanted to ensure young girls grow up seeing more women who look like her as scientists, doctors, engineers, mathematicians etc.
“Most of the STEM fields in this book you won’t see on TV or in a movie (especially with a female lead). In fact, in my teenage years, I didn’t know many of these options existed. This book allows girls and young women the chance to explore STEM fields that they may have never otherwise dreamed of through the stories of 44 inspiring women STEM leaders,” she said.
Basically, this is the book Stephanie wished she had growing up!
Along with the profiles of each women, young readers will be able to see practical advice and guidance that can help them more take steps toward their own STEM career in the future.
As someone who has worked as a chemical engineer for BP, for the United States Department of Agriculture, and founded her own test prep and coaching organization to empower the next generation of STEM leaders, Stephanie understands just how powerful and impactful it is to see a role model in a career you never thought was possible.
“STEM Gems is not just a book but a movement that will influence the next generation of women. STEM changed my life, and I want girls and young women like my daughter to see STEM role models like the women highlighted in this book and know there is a place for them; there are actionable steps they can take starting today that will help them create their own unique paths,” she said.
As a woman of color in a field that is underrepresented by minorities, and especially minority women, Stephanie joins a growing list of women who want to fill the gap and show other girls in their communities and families what is possible. Kimberly Bryant the founder of Black Girls Code has ignited a movement across the nation with her programs that encourage young minority girls to enter a field that is growing at such a fast rate it NEEDS women, and Chicago-based entrepreneur Jackie Lomax who started a program for minority girls in her community to get interested in science and science careers.
There are many more who are now realizing the wonderful opportunity for girls to be part of an industry that can’t afford to be gender-biased.
“STEM isn’t a special brain. STEM doesn’t come from a life of privilege. STEM is simply an exposure to what is possible and an internal belief that anyone can be a STEM Gem,” says Stephanie about the passion she wants to instill in the girls who will read her book.
If you want to purchase a copy of ‘Stem Gems’, click this link which will take you to the checkout on her website, where you can also find additional information about Stephanie, the women featured, and the statistics around women in STEM fields.