Investing in education programs that focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) has been a focus for our company for many years. We recognize the importance of playing an active role in encouraging the next generation of innovative and skilled STEM professionals. From mentoring in the classroom, job shadowing, hosting factory tours and mentoring robotics teams, Joy Global employees are helping introduce today’s students to the wide range of STEM careers.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin employees have taken another step to focus specifically on fostering a greater interest in STEM amongst young women. This focus is fueled by the fact that only 20% of engineering school graduates are female – and only 11% of the current engineering workforce are women, confirmed by a 2016 Society of Women Engineers (SWE) study.

For the past five years, during Engineers Week, women in STEM related fields in Milwaukee have been working to change the conversation, inspiring young women by hosting Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. The day is a worldwide campaign to introduce girls to not only engineering, but the wide variety of STEM careers that exist here at our company and in businesses in our community.

“We are extremely proud to celebrate our 5th Annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. Each year the programming varies but our focus has always been on introducing the students to women in STEM professions here at our company while helping them navigate their post-secondary education options” relayed Cathy Stagmer, Global Social Responsibility Manager and event coordinator.

Introduce girls 1

This year, we hosted a private showing of the acclaimed film, Hidden Figures. The movie, adapted from a book of the same name, tells the formerly untold story of three African American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program. Nearly 35 young women enrolled in Project Lead the Way at three partner high schools, Alexander Hamilton, Wauwatosa East and West Allis Central, attended the event.

The young women were welcomed by Aimee Therrian, Director-Human Resources, who commented on the importance of the day’s event.

“Traditionally, people choose careers based on what they see from their family members, friends, community and are often influenced by movies and television. This was an opportunity to show young women that educational, financial, general and racial barriers can be broken by women who want to get into a STEM career. All they have to do is believe in themselves and their abilities in order to get there”

Introduce girls 2

Following the film, the students were guided through a discussion about many of the topics that were brought to light. Kaonou Latham, Senior Engineer-Mechanical Systems, has been volunteering for the event for several years and noted how insightful the girls were, “They understood the significance of the story to the success of the space program and for women in general.”

The day ended with a round of “Speed Mentoring” where the students met with both our staff and current students at local schools including Milwaukee Area Technical College, Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM).

Participating in Introduce a Girl to Engineering was important to many of the professionals, particularly because it focuses on the important role women have in STEM fields.

“Men and women think and see things, differently, by nature. Neither is better; neither is right. But when a diversified group sees things from both angles and works together to incorporate all of those visions, the result can target, appeal to and have an effect on an audience of all people” shared Donna Burbey, Project Manager. This sentiment was also echoed by Julie Parker, a senior studying Mechanical Engineering at UWM, “As we move forward, it is important to have more women involved in STEM. Women have the courage, persistence, and viewpoints required to bring innovation to predominantly male fields and in doing so, can improve and transform the world.”

The students walked away having learned more about pioneers in STEM that came before us and the power that lies within themselves while gaining a greater sense of what types of STEM careers exist beyond being an engineer. One student shared, “I got to have enlightening conversations that will help me in the future” another added, “I like that the event empowers women and encourages us to do great things.”

We are dedicated to investing time, talent and resources into the development of the next generation of STEM professionals. From finance to production planning to welding to new product development and design, we have a continual need for individuals who are passionate about STEM. This passion yields success and innovation and we continue to play a role in encouraging today’s youth in the pursuit of STEM careers.