Women and Girls in Science: More Diversity in STEM Leads to Better Solutions
Originally published on 3M News Center
Supporting women and girls in science starts with showing them what’s possible.
"Science and the scientific community needs to be a representation of our society,” said Dr. Jayshree Seth, 3M corporate scientist and chief science advocate. “Women and girls are half of the world’s population. We have to unlock their potential by showing and celebrating that they too can be scientists."
For Jayshree, knowing she could pursue science education was never a question. Science was a part of everything she knew growing up in India. Her father was a civil engineering professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee and Jayshree’s family lived on campus.
What was missing for her was the context around why she should enter the STEM field: “Why am I doing that? Who does it help? Why is this important?”
The answers came much later when she was in graduate school. Jayshree realized that for her, a career in science meant solving problems. That was even more evident when she began her career at 3M a few years later, where using science to solve the world’s problems is the company’s mission.
After three decades at 3M, Jayshree now holds 76 patents for a variety of innovations. She was appointed 3M’s first ever chief science advocate in 2018 and is using her scientific knowledge, technical expertise and professional experience to advance science and communicate the benefits of science and the importance of diversity in STEM fields.
Jayshree’s commitment to encouraging, supporting and mentoring women and girls in science is about ensuring diversity in STEM, which results in better science overall.
"You get a lot more perspective about which problems to solve and a richer context around the solutions you arrive at,” Jayshree said. “Diverse perspectives are important for driving innovation."
According to new 3M commissioned research, 87% of Americans agree that women are a source of untapped potential in the STEM workforce and 80% say more needs to be done to encourage and keep students from underrepresented groups engaged in STEM education.
3M’s Audrey Sherman, a division scientist in 3M Health Care’s medical solution division, echoes diversity’s power to improve science.
“Innovation is all about something new, something that wasn’t there before.” Audrey said. “When you inject in a new perspective, that’s when the sparks start flying.”
Audrey started her work at 3M in high school in the early 1980s as a part of a pre-college science training program. In 2017, she became the first woman at 3M to reach the 100-patent mark. Audrey currently holds 168 patents.
She encourages other women and girls who are curious, love to solve problems and work together in teams, to consider a STEM career. Audrey hopes they’re also inspired by what she and other women scientists at 3M and around the world have been able to do.
“It’s important to see that other women have been able to do this,” Audrey said. “When you see women in that role all of a sudden it’s like, wow, it’s possible.”
3M is joining the UN in recognizing Saturday, Feb. 11 as “International Women and Girls in Science Day,” a day to recognize women’s achievements in science and promote STEM careers for girls around the world.
In 2021, 3M set a global, education-focused goal to create five million unique STEM and skilled trades learning experiences for underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025. In the first year, 3M has created and supported more than one million unique learning experiences.
Here’s a look at how else 3M is working to provide STEM education opportunities for people of all genders, races, and backgrounds:
Visiting Wizards: 3M’s Visiting Wizards encourages young people (primarily children grade 1-6) to become interested in STEM. 3M Wizards showcase interesting and fun science demonstrations with hands-on experiments on a variety of topics. These simple experiments can help youth understand how 3M science can impact everyday life.
3M STEP (Science Training Encouragement Program): The 3M STEP program provides an opportunity for juniors and seniors from St. Paul Public Schools to spend time at 3M during the spring semester to learn how 3M scientists apply science to life. They also work in 3M labs over the summer, applying their classroom learnings. Since its start, 3M has hired several former STEP students including division scientist, Audrey Sherman, 3M’s “100-Patent Woman.”
3M Tech Program: 3M Tech aims to broaden students understanding of what science and engineering careers are by offering classroom visits to provide students, especially women and minorities, with the opportunity to meet and interact with role models who enjoy technical careers.
3M TWIST (Teachers Working in Science and Technology): Providing teachers an annual opportunity to get real-world STEM experience by working in 3M labs and manufacturing facilities during the summer, the 3M TWIST program enhances teachers’ knowledge of how science is applied to life. In 2021, 3M virtually hosted teachers at facilities in MN, WI, TX, NC, and CT.
Not the Science Type: In June 2021, 3M released a docuseries, “Not the Science Type,” which featured the stories of four female scientists with different careers as they challenge stereotypes and confront and overcome gender, racial, and age discrimination.
Skilled: 3M’s latest docuseries "Skilled" celebrates the skilled trades and addresses misperceptions that may be preventing more people from pursuing these vital careers. the docuseries made its debut Jan. 22 at an officially sanctioned event of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and will be screened in the future at various international film festivals, including the Los Angeles International Film Festival and the American Documentary and Animation Film Festival, among others.
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