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Mentorship designed to get women in STEM careers

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Arkansas is one of 37 states that is encouraging more girls and women to enter into STEM careers.  

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  Careers that fall into these categories are traditionally male-dominated.  A national push is underway to change that trend, and get more women involved.  The national effort is called Million Women Mentors. 

The national goals is to have one million girls and women being mentored for those careers by 2020.  Arkansas State University served as one of several launching sites for this initiative.  Dr. Mary Jane Bradley is the Dean of the College of Education and Behavioral Science at Arkansas State.  She explains what the program is designed to do.

"The goals are to get more young women interested in these kinds of careers and to get more women interested in undergraduate degrees with a STEM base," said Bradley.

The Arkansas STEM Coalition and Walmart are partnering to bring Arkansas’ goal to fruition.  Officials in Arkansas hopes to have five-thousand mentors ready by the end of 2018.  Bradley says a STEM Sorority is being established at Arkansas State University to try to encourage incoming freshmen to major in STEM careers.  Bradley says one challenge is for incoming women to stay with a STEM major.  She says most men will stick with a STEM major, while a lot of females will drop a STEM major and opt for something else. 

Market Health and Wellness Director for Walmart Suzanne Hightower gives reasons why girls and women should stick with those majors.

"Not only do they have higher salaries, but employers like the fact that someone has majored in STEM. It also helps with a young woman's confidence to know that they can do it and go into STEM."

Lt. Governor Tim Griffin also attended the Arkansas State Launch.  He says he wants to see the STEM push in all public schools, and he thinks that Governor Asa Hutchinson’s coding initiative is a huge step toward getting more girls interested in STEM jobs.  Griffin says this is important, because almost half of men in the state go toward STEM jobs, but only 14-percent of women do.  Griffin believes that educating young women and mentoring them can help expose girls to these careers.

"We want them to know that these jobs are available and we want them to understand there are more career options available than some of the options they may have been exposed to previously," said Griffin.

Griffin says STEM careers also help close a wage gap with men.  Women who chose STEM careers can make 33 percent more than comparable women with careers elsewhere. Women in STEM careers can make similar salaries to their male counterparts who also work STEM jobs.  Griffin says girls in middle school through high school grades should take as much rigorous math and science classes as possible, which will help them when they go to college.