STEM Like a Girl fair encourages girls to pursue math, science careers

A volunteer representing the water industry teaches girls about her career at the STEM Like a Girl event at Orem Library Feb. 12. (Savannah Hopkinson)

The Orem Library held a STEM Like a Girl fair Feb. 12. featuring Utah County women in math and science careers seeking to encourage young girls to pursue STEM interests.

“The thing is, unless you see it, you can’t imagine yourself there,” said Rachel Montalvo, publicity and events specialist at Orem Library. “So it’s really important to get girls and young women to see themselves here. These are women that are local. These aren’t people that are coming in from outside; these are women who work here in the Wasatch Front.”

Montalvo said community interest in the STEM Like a Girl fair was extremely high.

“I’m sure if we’d had a big convention center space we could have filled it, because there’s a lot of women who are looking to give back to the community,” she said. “We had to cap it at a certain number and stop asking, because just about anyone we asked was more than happy to do it. A lot of people feel really passionate and strongly about it.”

Among these local women representing STEM Careers in Utah was Shazelle Terry, representing Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District. Terry said she’d seen a massive increase of women working in her field during her career.

“I have been doing this for 20 years,” Terry said. “When I started I was the only female there at our plant. Now, even in the other agencies we work with, I’ve seen the number of women in the industry increase tenfold.”

Terry said an increased emphasis on STEM careers as well as role models and mentors for young girls within the fields were likely factors in this increase. She also said there were several benefits of employing women alongside men.

“The beauty is that men and women are different; they approach problems different, they collaborate differently, and I think anytime you get more people working on a problem from a different angle, you get a better solution,” Terry said.

Ross Larsen, an assistant education professor at BYU, brought his daughter Charlotte to the fair.

“She has been really enjoying it,” Larsen said. “She’s always loved math and science, and loves to learn new things.”

Ross Larsen sits with his daughter, Charlotte at the STEM Like a Girl fair. Charlotte enjoyed the STEM Fair and said she learned all sorts of new things. (Savannah Hopkinson)

Charlotte’s favorite booth at the fair had a 3D printer working on a model of Nintendo’s Pokémon mascot, Pikachu.

Larsen explained why it was so important that he bring his daughter to the STEM fair.

“It exposes her to the possibilities,” he said. “To see that it’s not just me who shows her this kind of stuff, but it’s lots of people that believe that she can succeed at anything she wants to do.”

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