STEMFems 2020: Women Transforming Our World

by Tecton Architects

While women make up nearly half of the labor force, they continue to be underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics professions, constituting just 28% of these STEM fields. The Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry has an even broader gap, where women fill just 10-25% of roles, with slightly higher representation in architecture and lower participation in construction.

The Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame is looking to help close this gap through educational programs and resources designed to encourage participation, foster a positive dialogue and inspire girls’ achievements in STEM. On a broad level, the Hall’s mission is to publicly honor the achievements of Connecticut women, preserve their stories, educate the public and promote the continued achievements of women and girls. Founded in 1994 in Hartford, Conn., the Hall celebrates Connecticut’s pioneering women from careers ranging from arts and humanities, business and labor, education and preservation, politics, government and law, reformers, science and health, sports, writers and journalists. The Hall’s Inductee Gallery features 125 Connecticut Pioneers, from Hannah Bunce Watson, a newspaper publisher whose work supported the American Revolutionary War, to Marian Chertow, an industrial ecology pioneer who is currently teaching at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Students participate in a hands-on workshop, learning about pioneering women in the A/E/C industry and their signature architectural styles.

In particular, the Hall offers educational programs designed to creatively bring women’s history to life for current and future generations. Its STEMfems: Women Transforming Our World events provide an all-day experience to inspire middle and high school girls to consider careers in STEM. Throughout the day, students explore the historical impact of women in these fields through hands-on workshops with professional women, providing an opportunity to both hear and see what a STEM career looks like. The event provides mentors an opportunity to speak with the girls about their own school and career struggles and triumphs and presents girls with examples of empowered women.

“On a daily basis, I have the opportunity to create and coordinate STEM programs for young girls and share how our inductees have overcome gender and race discrimination in their STEM field of choice. These women paved the way and opened up opportunities for future generations despite the obstacles and challenges they had while pursuing their careers,” said Liz Krebs, education manager for the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame.

On Feb. 7, the STEMfems program hosted 75 girls from Manchester Public Schools in a series of architectural, scientific and engineering discussions and experiential workshops. Volunteers from Tecton Architects, Gilbane Building Company, Fuss & O’Neill, AECOM, EBAD, Loureiro, Pelli Clarke Pelli and Pratt & Whitney each brought their own spin to the event. Groups created wastewater treatment systems, mitigated oil spills, built rockets and put their own creative stamp on architecture, all while learning about pioneering women in the related field.

Kathryn Mease, NCIDQ, LEED AP BD+C, EDAC, associate and senior interior designer with Tecton Architects, appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the broader influence of women who build. “The products of these fields affect women worldwide. The incorporation of women’s voices, perspectives and involvement have the power to make positive impacts on the daily lives of so many.”

For many of the volunteers, the process of preparing for the event provided an opportunity to reflect on their own reasons for entering STEM fields and rekindled a passion for their work. “Even with a diverse range of personalities and interest, each girl showed an equal amount of passion for what it was they believed in,” said Kaitlyn Dobberfuhl, project engineer with Gilbane Building Company. “This event was as much, if not more, energizing for ourselves as it was for the young girls we were talking to! Sometimes it takes having the opportunity to talk about the work you do to recall the pure reasons that you do it and why it excites you.”

The Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame hosts STEMfems events four times a year and welcomes the perspectives and participation of A/E/C industry women.

Tecton Architects, Gilbane Building Company, Fuss & O’Neill and Pratt & Whitney are all proud members of the Construction Institute.

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