Bridgeport STEMfems Event

Held on December 1, 2016, this special regional event (modeled after our successful STEMfems module launch event in Hartford and our equally successful STEMfems regional rollout event in Stamford) was designed to continue our introduction of STEMfems in the Fairfield County region, the next geographic area of focus for our continued rollout of DIY History across Connecticut. For this day-long event, we were hosted by Discovery Interdistrict Magnet School whose seventh and eighth grades (90 students) participated in a series of workshops led by high-level female STEM professionals representing three corporate partners.

The event was designed to expose the students to women in STEM fields and provide powerful examples of how real people are making a positive difference in the world through STEM. Currently, only 25% of STEM jobs in the U.S. are held by women, and research suggests that only half of girls who are interested in STEM have been exposed to a female STEM role model. We know it’s crucial young women see the connection between STEM subjects and the solving of real-world problems, and this event helped make those connections while also encouraging students to explore the breadth of possibilities open to them through STEM. But the benefit wasn't only for the girls! We recognize the importantance of young men seeing examples of strong women in STEM and exploring ways they can be a part of the solution to the underrepresentation of women in STEM.

Key Outcomes

In analyzing the data from students’ pre- and post-event surveys, we can see that the event was a resounding success! Some highlights:

  • 100% of girls and 83% of boys indicated that they learned something new through the program
  • 100% of girls and 88% of boys feel they now have a better understanding of career options available to them through STEM
  • 96% of girls feel more confident in their own abilities after participating in our program
  • 78% of boys feel that they have a better understanding of the challenges their female colleagues face
  • 96% of girls felt inspired by the stories of CWHF Inductees they explored through this program and said the next time someone questions their abilities they can point to these examples as proof of what they can accomplish
  • 93% of girls are more interested in pursuing a STEM career than they were before participating in this program


STEM Workshops Included:

A Day in the Life of a Chemist: Discovering New Medicines
Dr. Michelle Garnsey, Senior Scientist & Dr. Danica Rankic, Principal Scientist, Pfizer
Find out what it takes to become a chemist in the pharmaceutical industry. Learn about working with chemicals, testing scientific hypotheses and how this leads to discovering exciting new medicines. Test your skills with a hands-on chemistry experiment!

Crazy for Rockets & Space!
Meryl Mallery, Director, Project Engineering, Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense Company (with 2 team members)
Come join three fun-loving aerospace engineers! We work for an explosives manufacturer that designs and manufactures explosive components for rocket stage separation and termination! It does not get much more fun than that! Participants in this workshop will learn about what it means to be an aerospace engineer, see examples of hardware and video for the new NASA launch vehicle and make bottle rockets that will be launched outdoors!

Surgeon for a Day
Elizabeth Contini, Senior Biomedical Engineer (with three team members)
Ever wonder what it would be like to be a surgeon? Here is your chance to try it out! You'll also learn about different medical devices, how they're developed, and their role in surgery.

CWHF-Led Workshop:

In addition to participating in two STEM workshop options, each student attended a history-focused and discussion-based workshop led by Bambi Mroz, CWHF’s Director of Education, or Tina Carlson, CWHF’s Programs Coordinator. In these 90-minute workshops, students learned about the cultural and social factors that have led to the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields (myths about women’s interest and ability in science and math, the restricted spheres of employment traditionally reserved for women, etc.) and discussed the challenges women continue to experience in their pursuit of STEM careers.

During this workshop, students also explored the stories of three Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame Inductees: Dr. Barbara McClintock, Nobel Prize-winning genetics pioneer; Dr. Alice Hamilton, pioneer in industrial medicine whose research and advocacy led to the creation of OSHA; and Theodate Pope Riddle, one of the first female architects in the U.S. Students then broke into groups of 3-4 and selected one of the challenges women face when considering a STEM career. Each group received a packet highlighting several CWHF Inductees in STEM fields and used the examples of Connecticut women (and their own creativity!) to create a PSA poster to help combat their chosen challenge. At the end of the workshop, each group presented its poster to the larger group.