POCATELLO — Idaho State University counselor Erin Beal has a name for those advocating for more women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
“We’re steminists,” Beal said, wearing a t-shirt bearing the word in bold print.
On Tuesday, Beal and other faculty members from ISU’s Center for New Directions hosted the second annual Super STEM Girl Conference for area eighth-graders. Over 100 girls from Pocatello, Chubbuck, Blackfoot, Aberdeen and American Falls participated in the all-girl event held at ISU, designed to help attendees gain more confidence in pursuing STEM jobs predominantly filled by men.
U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that women occupied 24 percent of STEM jobs in 2017. Yet women filling these positions earned 35 percent more than women in non-STEM jobs.
In addition to minimizing the gender gap, Beal said, more women pursuing STEM careers would quell job vacancies in the field. In January, the Idaho Statesman reported that some 7,000 STEM jobs went unfilled in Idaho in 2017 — doubling the number from 2016.
From 2014 to 2024, the Department of Labor projects STEM jobs to increase by over 23 percent. From 2004 to 2014, STEM jobs increase by 14 percent.
“Girls can do these jobs, too,” Beal said.
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Students participated in a variety of STEM activities at Tuesday’s conference, from flying simulated drones to hacking into a computer. Some students reassembled motors, while others solved puzzles needed to obtain a code to open a locked box.
“We learned things that could be the basis for our future careers,” said Alameda Middle School student America Altamirano.
Several female STEM professionals attended the event, including environmental engineer and hydrogeologist Sarah Upton, who watched some girls handle a human brain in the university’s biology department.
“I was surprised at how many handled it well,” Upton said.
Eighth grader Luella Riley said she loved the event because “there are no rambunctious boys here.”