By Dr. Andrea Bowen-Jones

The representation of women in the male-dominated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields has been a topic of discussion over the last several years in education, business, and government. The statistics are alarming with women making up only 25 percent of computing-related occupations. The numbers are even more concerning when it comes to the representation of women of color (5% – Asian, 3% – Black/African American, 1% Latina/Hispanic), according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), 2016 Women in Tech Report.

Organizations like Atlanta-based non-profit, Women In Technology (WIT) has been committed to changing the trajectory for women in STEM in Georgia for over 25 years with programs that target middle/high school and college students to working professionals.

Six area high school students are among nearly 100 girls across Atlanta taking advantage of one such program, the WIT Girl Job Shadow Program. These girls are; Abrionna Jennings (Rockdale Magnet School), Amari Jones (Salem High School), Ayiesha Lee Fajobi (Rockdale Magnet School), Hannah Reaves (Rockdale High School), Syndie Richard (Rockdale High School), and Stephan Sellars (Rockdale Magnet School). These students will learn from professionals at AT&T, SunTrust, The Weather Company, Rev.io, Relus Cloud, EY, and other participating companies.

The WIT Job Shadow program is a one-week experience in which high school girls are paired with various career women in the technology field at top Atlanta companies. Abrionna Jennings aspires to become an aerospace or biochemical engineer. She says, “Participating in programs like WIT Girls Job Shadow will further my interest in a STEM career because they provide valuable information that I may not be aware of.” Ayiesha Lee Fajobi, a rising senior says, “…In participating in the WIT Girls Job Shadow Program, I am looking to get workforce exposure and also to learn more about what the STEM career field has to offer, especially since it is such a male-driven field.” “This opportunity would further my knowledge on the multiple fields in STEM that I may not have known much about before,” says Hannah Reaves who has career aspirations in the medical field. Syndie Richard says programs like this will help in “achieving my goals and developing my skills.”

Statistics show that those students who were identified as having expressed and measured STEM interest were most likely to pursue a STEM major and most likely to graduate with a STEM major (The Condition of STEM 2016 – Georgia, ACT). Early exposure to careers that leverage STEM degrees will aid in increasing interest. During the Job Shadow week, students will get hands-on experience working at the sponsoring companies. “Seeing other women working in the STEM field is definitely one of the things that will inspire me the most,” says Stephan Sellars who has career aspirations to become an aerospace engineer or astrophysicist. Amari Jones, a rising senior, says, “programs like the WIT Job Shadow Program may open me up to new possibilities.”

To learn more about the programs offered by WIT visit mywit.org.

(The girls are pictured below from left to right: Abrionna Jennings, Amari Jones, Ayiesha Lee Fajobi, Hannah Reaves, Sydnie Richard, Stephan Sellars.)