White House Council on Women and Girls: A Focus on Girls and STEM


Lisa Jackson:
Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Welcome to the
White House. And welcome to this exciting
roundtable on STEM for girls. Girls and STEM roundtable. I want to start by
thanking the White House Council on Women and Girls
and Sarah Horowitz who has invited most of you here
and made sure that we put this together,
invited me here. I am thrilled to be here
today to be able to host what I think is going to
be a wonderful discussion. We’re so happy to have you
here, but also happy to have all the folks who are
watching us online and in their classrooms. We’re very glad that
you can join us as well. Let me also say how
exciting it is to see so many incredible, young
leaders and young women in our audience today. As many of you may know, I
am the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency. I know it’s a mouthful. We call it EPA. At the EPA, science is the
backbone of every decision we make and every
action that we take. With that in mind, it
should come as no surprise that I believe STEM
education is critical to our country’s future, and
that as a woman scientist, bringing more young women
into STEM is something I’m very passionate about. There is a great need,
but it’s also a great opportunity to engage
young women in STEM education, and encourage
them to seek careers in STEM fields. Now, like the women in
this room, I’ve had an interest in math and
science since I was young. At the time it didn’t
strike me as all that unique. You see, I went to an
all girls school in my hometown of New Orleans,
Louisiana, and like all of the other young women
in my class, I tried my hardest, I worked hard,
and did as well as I could. It really wasn’t until
college when I began studying chemical engineering
at Tulane University that I found
myself in most cases to be one of the few
women in my class. As you can imagine, it was
a bit of a shock for me, after going to an all
girls high school. I saw much the same thing
as I went on to pursue my master’s degree in
chemical engineering at Princeton University,
where my classmates and instructors were also
predominantly men. Now, things have
gotten better. When I was a student
about 154,000 women were pursuing master’s degrees
in science and engineering across the country. By 2003, about 20 years
later, that number had grown to 270,000. Fifty years ago, ten
percent of the doctorates in science and
engineering went to women. Today that number has
grown to 40 percent. This weekend I spent some
time talking to brilliant young college women who
were part of scientific teams that submitted
projects to EPA’s People, Prosperity and the
Planet Competition. In the last two years,
we’ve seen some great examples of young women
scientists at the White House Science Fair. And I took note last year
when young women took top honors in all three age
groups in the first ever Google Science Fair. So the future is looking
very, very bright indeed. Each year a new class of
young women graduates from America’s colleges
and universities. They’re eager to take
their jobs and places in math and science, to
become doctors, to become engineers, to become
CEOs, to become teachers. But even with all that
progress, you all know we still have work to do. For one thing, we know
that adding more women to STEM fields would undoubtedly
benefit our economy. It’s clear that much of
our future prosperity rests on new innovations
and advances in scientific and technical and
medical fields. President Obama has made
it a priority to invest in research and development,
not only because American scientists and inventors
are doing work critical on public health or energy
security, but also because we know that new ideas
lead to new opportunities for American workers. Think of how far
we’ve already come. Think how many next big
things we’ve already seen. And for most of our
history, half of our team of innovators was
sitting on the sidelines. It’s exciting to imagine
what can happen once those talents are also unleashed. Bringing more women into
STEM fields can also have a positive effect
on science itself. Whenever I meet and
talk with young women, I encourage them to throw
out their stereotypical ideas of what a “scientist”
is supposed to look like. Being a scientist doesn’t
have to mean — although it can mean, but it
doesn’t have to mean — being in a lab all by
yourself, happiest with your test tubes. It can mean that if that’s
what you want it to mean. But it can also mean
getting out in the community and talking to
people, and working with them to improve
their lives. It can mean taking action
to protect children’s health. It can mean helping
impoverished communities around the world get
access to clean water. Or finding solutions to
rebuild ecosystems for endangered species. The traditional impression
of science and scientists is that they are detached
and maybe a little antisocial. But the truth is that
science touches our daily lives, and we need more
women and men studying science as a way to
make our lives better. Now I want to save as
much time for our panel discussion as possible,
so let me stop there to introduce our video. It’s titled,
“Girls in STEM.” This tells the story of
the brilliant young women scientists and engineers
who participated in the White House Science
Fair not too long ago. It was really
something to see. I’m very glad to share it
with you and to have you with us today. Thank you very much. ♪ Music Playing ♪ President Obama:
A belief that we belong on the cutting edge of
innovation, that’s in ideas as old as
America itself. It’s in our DNA. We know that what these
young people are doing, this is what’s going to
make a difference in this country over
the long haul. Speaker:
I created a nanoparticle
that’s kind of like the Swiss Army knife
of cancer treatment. Speaker:
A UV light lunch box
that kills bacteria off fruits and food. Speaker:
My project was I
actually built detection method for buried
land mines. Speaker:
I did my project on
sheep genetics in Cotswold sheep, the natural color
versus the white genes. Speaker:
The Smart phone works
with a Bluetooth enabled heart rate monitor to
detect if there’s a medical emergency and then
notify contacts of where you are, what happened,
what’s going on, where they can find you. Speaker:
We created an adaptive hand
device for a girl in Georgia. President Obama:
So did you play the game or did you design it the game? Speaker:
I designed the game. President Obama:
You designed the game. Sheesh. (laughter) That’s pretty impressive. Speaker:
So curing cancer
treatments, there are two major problems. First, it’s not specific
towards cancer cells, so it kills normal cells in
addition to cancer cells. So that has very low
patient quality of life. And then the second
problem is although it kills the majority of
cancer cells, it doesn’t really kill the source
of cancer cells. So my nanoparticle can
detect cancer cells in the body, eradicate the cancer
cells, and then monitor the treatment response. The objective of this
project really was just to personalize cancer
treatment to make it more effective and how it can
overcome a problem that all of society is facing. President Obama:
I’m very proud of you. Speaker:
Thank you. President Obama:
Go cure cancer. Speaker:
Thank you. President Obama:
I like that. Speaker:
First of all, I have
cousins who live in Mozambique and have to
deal with the daily threat of land mines. I heard their stories and
was really inspired by what they had to say. So, while all this was
running through my head, I was at the piano one night
playing the piano, and I noticed that when I played
certain chords or notes the strings on a nearby
banjo would resonate. And so I heard that and
made the connection and thought maybe I can use
the same principle to detect buried land mines. So I started doing this
kind of research, and somehow ended up
at the White House. President Obama:
So this hasn’t just a very direct application to the
sheep that are on your farm. Speaker:
Yes, sir. President Obama:
Fantastic. Speaker:
There’s only 2500
registered Cotswolds in the United States,
and that includes white and natural color. Over the years the people
in the Cotswold industry have bred out the natural
colors because the fiber artists want just the
white wool to dye and use for different things,
but now that people have realized there’s such a
decline in the numbers of natural colors they’re
really trying to breed them back and pull them
back into the industry. But it’s really, really
hard to get those high-quality natural
colored sheep because the genetic gene
pool is so low. When you go to look for
natural color sheep it’s really difficult to find
them, and it’s been my passion to breed and bring
the natural colors back into the industry. I wanted to be in the
fiber industry and have livestock and have the
sheep so that I could learn more for myself
about the animals and the livestock industry and
just take part in that core agriculture process. President Obama:
I did not realize that ultraviolet light can
actually kill bacteria. Speaker:
Yes. President Obama:
I did not realize that. Well, it’s a pretty
spiffy invention. Speaker:
First you put
the fruit in. Then you close the
lid and turn it on. You wait for ten seconds. After those ten seconds,
you open the lunch box, you simply take your
fruit out, and you eat it. A lunch box that
helps people. I never thought
I could do that. Speaker:
The ultimate goal was
to help Danielle to write with her preferred hand. Speaker:
She is right hand
dominant and she didn’t have most of the fingers
on her right hand, and she really wanted to write
with her right hand. So we decided that we
would help her write. Speaker:
I know something
about living with a limb difference because I have
one myself, so we began to make prototypes for —
to help her hold a pencil. And we ended up using
a simple design of a platform, and a cylinder
adjacent to it, in which you could insert a pencil,
and just strapped on to her hand and then
she started to write. Speaker:
The first thing we want
to show you is usually the user can check your status
by clicking on the status button and you can see
I’m a little nervous so my heart rate’s
a little high. We do have a series of
checks to ensure that there are no false alarms,
and let’s say you do not press the check because you
actually are in need of help. It starts issuing a loud
audible alert as well. Speaker:
As you’ll see
in a minute or two. Speaker:
It’s saying a medical
emergency has been detected. The next thing that
happens is a text message is automatically sent to
her cell phone, and at the same time your medical
information is displayed on the screen. So paramedics and anyone
else that shows up can see your past history
and things like that. Which could be helpful in
the event of an emergency. Speaker:
One of the huge
advantages of ours is that you don’t actually need to
press a button to summon help, you know, because
when you need help the most is when you
can’t get it yourself. Speaker:
The most unique thing
about it is it is mobile. You can take it anywhere. And this is on your cell
phone, which is something most people carry
around all the time. So I think that’s an
awesome feature, and also as Ada mentioned, the
fact that it’s passive. You don’t actually have
to press the button. In the event of a
heart attack it will automatically send
alerts to your contacts. Speaker:
This is an idea that
really resonated with all of us. We all have, you know,
relatives that aren’t living with us, you know,
in the house, who are far away. I know my grandfather had
a stroke in the back yard and we, you know, didn’t
know exactly what was going on, you know, for a
while, and always kind of wondered, you know, what
if we’d been able to, you know, find him
sooner or whatever. This is to just kind of,
you know, give them that security of having, you
know, family members when they need them. Speaker:
In this game I
want people to be environmental,
pretty much. What the game is about,
there’s polluting factories in the city and
the other people can’t breathe, so this one right
here has to pretty much like go around and collect
like coins and hearts and get the score to 500 so
they can win the game and people can breathe better. President Obama:
It’s really cool, though. Speaker:
Thanks. President Obama:
How long did it take
you to design it? Speaker:
A couple months. President Obama:
Do you want to be
a game designer? Speaker:
Umm, maybe. President Obama:
Yeah, you’re only in fifth grade, you don’t have to
make up your mind now. (laughter) President Obama:
It’s young people like you that make me so
confident that America’s best days are
still to come. When you work and study
and excel at what you’re doing at math and science,
when you compete in something like this,
you’re not just trying to win a prize today, you’re
getting America in shape to win the future. Speaker:
What I would say to
people, especially girls, who are interested in STEM
activities, is that you should be. Speaker:
Find other people who
have similar interests, and I think working
in a team helps a lot. Like you can bounce ideas
off of each other, you’re not on your own. Speaker:
Just go out there
and go for it and do it. I mean, there are
infinite possibilities. You can do
anything you want. Just being a woman doesn’t
hold you back from anything. Speaker:
I feel like I can make
a difference, and develop technology that’s really
going to help people. Speaker:
As a kid I asked a lot
of why questions and I found that science and
math usually were the answers, the coolest answers
to all of my why questions. Speaker:
By knowing that your
ideas might change the future is something
that I like. Speaker:
I mean, it’s a great
field for everybody and there’s nothing, there’s
nothing that should hold women back or put
men in front of us. Speaker:
Don’t give up on the first
thing that doesn’t work out. Keep going, keep trying
until you succeed. And after you succeed,
keep going and keep going. Speaker:
Don’t be shy. Try your hardest to do
what you can do because sometimes if you try hard
enough you can make it come true. ♪ Music Plaing ♪ Lisa Jackson:
How about that. (applause) And to my point
there was not one girl, young woman in that video
whose project didn’t center around helping
people, making life better for someone, that their
projects were inspired by noticing something. And I think that that’s
one of the things that women bring, is compassion
to our field in a different way. So now it is my
extraordinary honor to introduce our panelists
and begin our conversation. Please join me in
welcoming each of them as they take their
place on the panel. First we’ll begin
with Dr. Cady Coleman. Cady is a NASA scientist
with over 180 days in space. She flew two missions
aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia and spent
159 days aboard the International Space
Station last year as the lead robotics and
science officer. Dr. Coleman came to
NASA in 1992 with a B.S. in Chemistry from
MIT, and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science and
Engineering from the University of
Massachusetts. Commissioned as a Second
Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force in 1983, she
retired in 2009 as a Colonel. (applause) Our second panelist is
Jocelyn Goldfein. Jocelyn is the Director of
Engineering at Facebook, where she helps manage the
engineering team and drive products like news feed,
photos, and search. Prior to Facebook Jocelyn
was an engineering leader at VMware and helped grow
the R&D team from 100 to over 2000, ultimately
serving as Vice President of Desktop Products. Other career highlights
include cofounding a start-up. Jocelyn has a B.S. in Computer Science from
Stanford University. Jocelyn. (applause) We could so guess
she was from Facebook. (laughter) Bianca Bailey
is a senior Chemical Engineering major at
Howard University here in Washington, D.C. And as the President of
the Howard University Chapter of Engineers
Without Borders, Bianca has volunteered for the
last two years in Kenya and has worked on
development projects in Brazil and Haiti. She’s conducted
groundbreaking research in the field of
nanotechnology, and will be attending the
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for
a Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering. (applause) And Dr. Jean
Hernandez is President of Edmonds Community College
in Lynnwood, Washington, and has over 30 years of
experience in higher education. Edmonds Community College
has received over three and a half million dollars
in National Science Foundation STEM grants,
and considers itself a hub for STEM educational pathways. Dr. Hernandez serves on
the board of College Spark Washington and a number
of workforce and economic development boards, as well as
being an active member of the American Association
of Community Colleges. Please join me in
welcoming Dr. Hernandez. (applause) Okay, women. I’m going to start with a
couple of questions before we open it up to the
audience, and we’re also going to have questions
coming in from those who tweet. So — or from
Twitter, right? All right. So, let me throw this one
out and then if each one of you can take a turn at
answering, it’d be great. Please tell us about
one of the coolest, most exciting experiences you’ve
had during your STEM career. And Dr. Hernandez, maybe
it would be great if you could talk about the
exciting careers that students at your college
are pursuing with their STEM degrees. Dr. Cady Coleman:
Well, I knew coming from NASA, first of all, I had
to wear my jacket. (laughter) Because otherwise how
would you know? And that is why we’re
here, is, you know, women can do all sorts of
things, and often we, you know, the people around
us don’t think that. And no matter what the
first question was going to be, I was determined
that I would get to just show you a little bit
about what my world is like so that you could
realize, A, how much goes into it; and B, that
it’s your world, too. So Chris, if you
could do the slides. So this was my home
for 159 days, the International
Space Station. I loved it. (laughter) Next. And this is just a
little two-minute kind of video that’s just going to show
you a little bit about what it’s like to go up
there and be part of this. And when I was your age,
no one would have looked at me in high school and
said, yeah, she’ll be on that space station, you
know, she’ll be living right there with five
other people — happens to be guys in this case, but
we certainly have both men and women living on the
space station at any one time. And I don’t think anybody
understood that I would be practicing putting on a
space suit, learning about the Russian space ship I
launched and landed in Russia. I learned about the U.S. space suit and all that,
and actually years and years of practicing
and training. And it’s not as if I am
the smartest one in the whole room here or even in
the crowd that I’m there with, it is that I’ve
worked hard to create some opportunities, and those
put me here on launch night. This is my family, my son
and my husband on launch night. I will tell you, saying
goodbye is very difficult, and yet they understand
that this is something that’s really important to
me, that space exploration is something that people
just do and I happen to be one of them. Of course I’m the one that
has to beg the boys to walk slowly and
take small steps. But up there it doesn’t
matter what size you are. There is, it’s a really
big deal when people leave the planet. And a lot of us have the
talents that we need. A Bachelor’s degree and
three years experience is the minimum requirement to
be an astronaut to sit in this seat. It’s not so much, but you
need that technical degree to be here in the Soyuz,
there’s three of us that go up at a time. So we’re in the Soyuz. We docked with the space
station right before last Christmas, so about a
little bit over a year ago. And I like, this is my
favorite part of the whole movie, because it’s not
about floating around in space, it is about flying. And flying right next
to us — and this is important to see —
is the supply ship. And it was my job as the
lead robotics officer to control the robotic arm,
reach out, grab that, and then attach it to the
International Space Station. And it’s something I
trained for, I worked for — I also had very good
hair up there, as you can see. (laughter) And Chris,
let’s go ahead and go to the next slide. So just a few slides. I just want to emphasize
the robotics here. It’s, there’s
only two of us. If you could go to
the next slide, Chris. The two of us that have
ever done this reached out with the robotic arm,
grappled the free flying supply ship, and it’s
going to happen again in the next few weeks when
Space Exp launches their supply ship to the
International Space Station. I think the new date
for that is May 7th. It’s been a tiny bit
delayed, but you know what, in the space business
we go when we’re ready. (laughter) And if you could go
to the next slide. Nicole Stott and I are
actually the only two people on the planet or
off the planet that have captured supply ships. And right now Don Pettit
is scheduled to do this, but it’s been delayed. It might delay all the way
until Suni Williams gets up there, and then it
will actually begin to be perhaps a trend that only
girls can capture supply ships. (laughter) Next. I trained for space walks, never got to do one,
but I was ready. That was the
important part. Next. We did a lot
of science experiments. It’s a fluids experiment. Next. A lot of different
kinds of medical experiments. Next. That’s our freezer. Some cool robotics. This is Robonaut, our
seventh crew member. Next. And if you could
kill the sound, Chris, that would be great. (laughter) So we do a lot
of — a lot of science, but, you know, there’s
magic in science and engineering, and, you
know, it’s just plain old fun. Next, Chris. (laughter) I’m a musician,
an amateur one, but I like to play, so I brought my
flute and others up with me. Those are Irish flutes. Next. And this is our
window on the world. That’s, I like this
picture because the space station looks small and
the Earth looks big, which it does when
you’re up there. It’s a very special view,
and the reason I share these pictures is, you
know, maybe to brag just a little bit, but really to
share with you that this is an amazing world and
you and your friends could be part of it. Next. This is, and you should
learn your geography before you go, but this
is a beautiful picture of Italy. Next. Where I’m from, Cape Cod,
Long Island, New York City, New England. Next. And then seen in a
different way that kind of to me shares the sentiment
of seeing a place that you know and you love and your
whole family’s there, and then realizing that you’re
going to leave it in just a second because you go so
fast, but you’ll be back. Next. This is where we
take those pictures from. Next. The cupola. And this picture is not me
but Dr. Tracy Caldwell, a fellow chemist, and I love
this picture because it is a picture of a human being
in space looking back at the planet we come from,
and there’s no way that only guys should be in
a picture like this. (laughter) It’s all — and
I’m not saying that to be funny, I mean I know it
kind of is, it’s because we are part of the planet
and we bring a lot to the planet. And if you start doing
things without the talents that women bring, you are
just not doing them good enough. Next. So this is some of our
other women from NASA. Peggy Whitson was the
commander of the space station at the time,
she’s now the Chief of the Astronaut Office. Pam Melroy, the commander
of the space shuttle, and Sandy Magnus. Next. So your face belongs here. And that’s why
we’re here today. Thank you very much. (applause) Lisa Jackson:
Jocelyn. Jocelyn Goldfein:
Oh, my goodness. (laughter) That’s a
tall act to follow. (laughter) I’m a software
engineering by training, and so what I do for a
living is make software or more recently lead teams
that make software, and I think one of the coolest
things about software is that you start with
absolutely nothing. You have a computer, you
have your brain, and you can create something
from nothing. And generally that’s, you
know, and the first time that happens
it’s like magic. It’s like, wow. I made magic happen. Because now there’s
something here where there was nothing before. And so what — and so the
first time that’s just a thrill if you
love to make things, any kinds of things. If you are artistic
or creative, then that feeling of creating
software out of nothing is satisfying in
and of itself. Something that for me
is even as much or more motivating as that is when
what I’ve created, what I’ve made gets used
by other people. And so there have been
so many thrilling moments from I would say the first
time after college when I really built some
software and we put it in production with a
customer, and I kind of had that sinking but, you
know, sort of frightening but still thrilling
sensation of oh, this is not a homework assignment
any more, you know, this is actually real and if,
you know, and if I mess it up then, like, someone’s
gonna have trouble doing their jobs. But if I did it right,
then this is really going to help people out. And I think that there is
probably no — very few software companies on the
planet right now where you get more of that kind of
sense of satisfaction than Facebook, because when
I build a new feature on Facebook, when we shipped
the new homepage last fall, we are literally
touching hundreds of millions of people on this
planet who use that, who depend on it, who rely on
it to keep in touch with friends, to share news, to
find out what’s going on in each other’s lives. And one of the features
that I contributed to in that homepage launch is
not actually visible, but it’s a feature we call
Major Life Events, which is that we figured out
that, you know, one thing that makes people really
unhappy is when they, you know, check Facebook
sporadically and then they miss big news. A friend had a baby or
got into college and they missed it. They didn’t see
it on Facebook. And, you know, there’s so
many sort of sad stories where that happens,
and there’s no reason. We have all the data we
need in the back end to know when something really
important and exciting happens to you because
that story is full of likes. And full of comments
from people saying congratulations, oh,
my goodness, wish I was there. And so by analyzing that
data we can tell that this is a story none of your
friends should miss and run it at the very top of
their feeds and make sure that it doesn’t sort
of fade off the page. So just that one little
change sort of remarkably changes the character of
what you see every day. Make sure you don’t miss
those important moments. And knowing that that
touches so many people around the planet, but
also especially so many people that are personally
my friends and family, that was really
fulfilling. (applause) Lisa Jackson:
Bianca. Bianca Bailey:
For me, one of my most exciting experiences is just
being a woman in STEM. A young woman in STEM. Being a young woman in
STEM means that there are lots of opportunities
allotted to you, and especially to me. And the big, the big
thing is if you can take advantage of all the
opportunities that it has to offer, trust me, trust
me, trust me, it will benefit you greatly. And I’m sure all of these
ladies on the panel can attest to that. I am a part of Engineers
Without Borders, and we currently have a
project in Kenya. And this project in Kenya
is a water filtration project, and what we will
be traveling in May, this May, to implement biosand
filters, and these biosand filters will help clean at
a household level for the people in the community,
they’ll help to clean the river water that
they use every day. So for me as a young
woman, service is very important to me,
community service. And to be able to do
engineering on a global level for free — (laughter) And just to do something that I love
every day, it’s a field that I enjoy. And I just want everyone
to know that if you can find something that you
like for yourself and you can find that in
engineering, trust me, you’ll be successful and
you’ll go a long way. (applause) Lisa Jackson:
And Dr. Hernandez. Dr. Jean Hernandez:
Thank you, Lisa. Well, first of all,
Edmonds Community College takes a lot of pride in
being very innovative and creative in how
we do things. We have a center called
the WATR Aerospace Training and Research
Center, and one of the things that’s been really
neat about that program is you go for six weeks
and get your first certificate, it’s a
short-term certificate, full time, and then you
go another six weeks. So when you have two
certificates, aerospace companies and Boeing
are ready to hire you. And a lot of times people
think you have to have a four-year degree to really
get into the STEM fields, and it’s not
necessarily true. There’s a great need for
what we call technicians, and those usually require
either certificates or two-year degrees. But let me tell you a
little bit about WATR. One of the things they’re
doing is what’s called Cool Girls in Aerospace,
and I’m hoping that as I speak other high schools
and community colleges, universities, will think
of some of these ideas. But one of the things
that’s so neat is that girls come and they
actually get to work with composites and make a
composits tray, and composites are, you know,
when you’re looking at different materials that
are lightweight but very sturdy, and so they get to
play around with different types of things like that
and they make this trinket box, and then they take
Katya, which is a kind of software, and they design
their own key chain. So after nine hours
of this Cool Girls in Aerospace day, they have
something to take home with them, and hopefully
get excited about the materials they’ve
been working with. One of our students from
WATR who graduated about probably a year ago now
got her first job with a major aerospace company,
and this individual has gone so fast up the food
chain, and again, this is a great time to be
working in aerospace. She is now basically
a year later making $100,000 a year. And part of that is
because hard working, good work ethic, and
also great skills. And this person will
probably not come back for a Bachelor’s degree,
but she’ll probably continue to do
professional development throughout her career. Another area that we have
that we’re very proud of is our robotics
electronics program, and also our material
science program. And those are, again,
other areas where you can work, you know, with
different kinds of either, you know, information
technology or you can work with the robotics program,
you know, as you saw in the video where you’re
building things that actually do things that
maybe we don’t want humans to be doing or other
people that have to be, you know, touching. Sort of like the aerospace
piece here, you know, get a little help when you
have to reach out, you know, into space. One of the things that
we’re doing is called Expanding Your Horizons. And I don’t know if it’s
— it’s pretty well known nationally, but that’s one
program that if you as a girl have a chance to
go to Expanding Your Horizons, it’s usually for
either high school girls or for middle school
girls where they focus on STEM speakers. So all of your speakers
are in STEM fields, and they’re women. And I’m going to finish
with just one last story. We also have a nursing
program, and for us it’s a licensed practical nursing
program that’s part time and mostly online,
but the idea is that it’s to be accessible. It’s to make it easy for
individuals that maybe need to work either part
time or full time, can still go to college and
get their degrees and complete them. And we have recently
had two different groups graduate, and one of my
favorite stories is of a woman who nobody in her
family had ever had a college degree, and now
she’s a licensed practical nurse, and her hope is to
become a registered nurse. And I have no doubt she’s
going to do it, and she’s probably going to be
running, you know, the whole, you know, ward or
the whole floor before long. Because she just has
that kind of drive. Thank you. (applause) Lisa Jackson:
Thank you, Dr. Hernandez. Now we’re about to go
to questions from our audience, so get ready. But many of you touched
on this, but I’ll ask you very quickly, just if
you had one, a one or two sentence piece of advice
for not only the young women here but remember,
lots of young women who are listening or will
be listening to this broadcast. Just think about
that for a second. I’ll go first. It’s very, very short,
which is you don’t have to know exactly what kind of
scientist or engineer or technician you want to be
right now to make part of who you are being a
dedication to excelling in science and math. Math is the
language of science. There are all kinds of
scientists out there, there are all kinds of
engineers out there. I’m an engineer who does really
public policy for a living. That’s what
I’ve come to do. It is a wonderful platform
from which to build a career. So don’t feel bad if
you’re sitting there like, well, I’m not sure which
one of these, if any, I want to do, just at this
point dedicate yourself to getting the absolute best
grades you can in science and math and taking those
courses and getting that extra help or forming
a team, and then the rest will come. Dr. Cady Coleman:
You might think that the women who sit up here always
knew which way to go when presented with a fork in
the road, left or right, we just knew we were
just supposed to be here. And for me it’s not that
way, I need a lot of help and support. I love advice. I like to understand how
it was for other people. I urge you to go
to our NASA website Women.NASA.gov, and you
will see actually these really cool interview
videos of women telling their stories of how they
ended up in the jobs that they ended up in. I think they’re
really marvelous. And also a new mentoring
program that we have, it’s a pilot program this
summer at NASA, we’re going to take 20 girls,
they can apply — anybody can apply, grades 5
through 8, and we set them up with a NASA mentor. They don’t have to be
near a NASA site, it’s all virtual, it’s a program
that happens this summer. And because, like, we’ve
discovered that women, girls, often need a
guiding hand to show them the kinds of
things they can do. Jocelyn Goldfein:
I feel like the girls in the video gave some of the
really best advice. Do it in teams, find
something you’re excited about. Don’t give up, keep trying
if the first idea doesn’t work. Those are all really
fundamental, great advice. One more thing that I
think that I’ve learned from the, just the
research and being in this community of folks who are
concerned about this is that one of I think the
deep problems that is making — that is an
obstacle to girls getting into these fields is
that girls tend to underestimate how
well they’re doing. If they go look at kids
in a math classroom or a science classroom and
they ask girls how are you doing in this class,
the girls will tend to systematically underrate
how well they’re doing. And if they go ask the
boys, the boys will systematically
overestimate how well they’re doing. And so when you’re in that
environment it’s sort of easy to look around and
say, oh, my gosh, all these guys are doing so
well, I am not doing so well, like it is easy
to sort of lose heart or psych yourself out. And so I am here to say
don’t psych yourself out. Give it a chance. You don’t have
to be perfect. But you do have to
believe in yourself. I had lunch last weekend
with a wonderful woman engineer who I would love
to hire for Facebook, been trying to steal her away
from another company, and she told me that she
spent her entire computer science degree throughout
university convinced that she was on the verge
of failing out in every class. And when she finally
graduated she actually graduated in the top
5 percent of her class. So that’s my advice
to you, is believe in yourself. And even when it’s hard
to believe yourself, fake it until you make it. Just keep going. Even if you don’t believe,
just do it anyway. (laughter) Lisa Jackson:
Very good. Bianca. Bianca Bailey:
What I have to say is basically you may not know who you
are right now, you may not know what stage you’re
in in your life, but just know that you know
where you’re going. Know that you need to have
a plan, and that plan is — it’s okay if you get
off course sometimes, but just make sure that, you
know, you might consult with your mother or if you
have a mentor, it’s really important to have a mentor
that you can sit down and talk about your
plan for life. And so don’t just — don’t
get discouraged if you come, if you go off
course, because you always will end up where
you’re supposed to be. And the last thing that
I want to say is you have the right to prepare
for interesting work and economic independence. Lisa Jackson:
Okay. All right, and
Dr. Hernandez. Dr. Jean Hernandez:
Well said. So I think what I would
say is nobody can take your dreams away from you. You have the right to
achieve those dreams. And every one of you has
dreams right now, and my hope is that you’re going
to keep following them, because you have the
ability to be successful. You really do. I really believe that, and
what’s going to make that I think even more real for
you is find a college or university that has a
great support system. There are some schools
that do not focus on girls achieving or women
achieving in their programs the way that I
think we should be doing, so really do your
homework, and look for those scholarships. People want, there are
tons of STEM scholarships out there, so don’t avoid,
you know, getting somebody else to pay for
your college. Thank you. (laughter) Lisa Jackson:
Thank you. All right, great advice. Now it’s your turn. Questions from
the audience? Raise your hand and we’ll
get a microphone over. Okay, we have one here and
one over here, or in the back. Olivia Sullivan:
My name is Olivia Sullivan, I’m a student at Thomas
Jefferson High School, and I was wondering what’s the
most challenging part of your occupations. Jocelyn Goldfein:
I think it’s
dealing with failure. I think you have to kind
of, you know, a lot of times to build something
great it’s — no one, very few of us are lucky enough
to have exactly the right idea on the first try. And so the nature of
creating something, of, whether it’s technological
or otherwise, is to keep persisting and trying
again, each when your first idea
doesn’t work out. And it’s actually really
hard to take risks. This is why I think so
many companies, you know, talk about how hard
it is to innovate. It’s not because they’re
short of smart people with good ideas, it’s that
after you’ve tried your first good idea and it
didn’t work out, and then maybe you tried your
second good idea and that didn’t work out, you kind
of give up and want to do the safe, obvious thing
instead of trying risky, you know, unknown how it’s
going to work out things. And so I think realizing
that failure is normal, that actually if — if it
were clear what to do next it would be obvious. It wouldn’t be innovation. (laughter) And so there
is, it is absolutely impossible to tell the
difference between a great innovative idea and
a terrible idea. They’re going to look
exactly the same before you try them. (laughter) And so there is
no way to avoid failure if you’re going to swing for
the fences, so you’ve just got to kind of fail as
fast as you can and work with a team of people who
support each other through it and keep going. And know that that’s an
expected part of the process. Lisa Jackson:
I love that. We’re going to try to keep
it to one person answering — I know every one of us
could — so we can get as many of your questions
in as possible. So let’s take one more
from the audience, and then I’ll go to our
internet universe here. And I don’t have the mic,
so I can’t call on you. Princess Rockefeller:
Hi, my name is
Princess Rockefeller, I’m a student at McKinley
Technology High School. And my question is for
Engineers Without Borders, do you ever get to have
experience working with Doctors Without Borders? Bianca Bailey:
Actually, Engineers Without Borders is not
affiliated with Doctors Without Borders, but we do
some of the same kind of work. So again, just pressing
the whole service attitude as well as engineering. A lot of women, we’re very
sensitive and emotional and we like to help people
out, so that’s what I took towards engineering, and
I use that in order for me to like be motivated
and stay and finish successfully and graduate. Lisa Jackson:
Here’s one from our
Twitter verse. It’s from @LisaKMiles. And Dr. Hernandez, maybe
you should go first with these. What is the most important
class a high school girl should take for
a STEM career? Dr. Jean Hernandez:
Well, you definitely want to keep taking a lot of
your math, chemistry, physics, biology classes,
as much as you can. Because the reality is the
stronger your high school experience is, the more
successful you’re going to be in the community
college or university setting. Because you really need to
have a strong foundation. And again, what I would
emphasize about community college is if you don’t
have a strong math or science background, but
you’ve now decided, you know, I didn’t, you know,
I’m a senior now and I didn’t take as much math
as I thought I should, you could still go to a
community college and get that support and
foundation and still be very successful
in your career. Dr. Cady Coleman:
You know, I’d just like to piggyback on that. We all know here —
I don’t mean to belittle your answer at all — that
we should take math, but what if you
don’t like math? And what if you don’t,
what if you don’t feel like you’re good at math? Actually, math
works for me. Physics, now physics is
really nonintuitive and very hard for me,
and I don’t like it. And does that mean
it’s not for me? I mean, look at my job. It has to be there. And math has to be there. And there are things like
physics for me that just because it’s hard for me,
doesn’t mean it’s not for me. It means that I have to
have the courage to ask for more explanations and
say, could you just tell me about that in
a different way? I didn’t understand it. I can understand it, but
sometimes I need more or different explanations,
and that I have to actually do every homework
problem and maybe more. So just because it’s hard
for you and actually even if you plain old don’t
like it, math and science are for you because we all
live on the planet and we learned about what the
solutions come from. They come from
engineering. Lisa Jackson:
Absolutely. Okay, great. I’m going to throw this
one out there because I think every one of
you are pioneers. So this is a question
about pioneering. This is from Jody
in New Hampshire. Jody says girls who live
in rural areas and attend small high schools such
as those in our region of northern New Hampshire may
not feel as if they have the same opportunities
as the girls in your audience. What kinds of
encouragement can you offer girls from small,
rural high schools who want to pursue
STEM careers? Bianca Bailey:
I’ll answer that one. What I would say to her
is that there is the computer, there’s the
worldwide web, there’s the internet. And because you have that
tool, because technology is moving so fast and
social media is out there, you can get anything that
you need on the internet. So if you feel like
you’re missing out on opportunities, there’s
a lot, there’s lots of things online that you can
go to, lots of websites. Girls Incorporated is a
website that you can go on, you can find more
information about what Girls, Incorporated does
about STEM, which is a build IT program. Facebook, I’m sure,
Facebook there’s a lot of different opportunities as
far as girls and women in STEM is concerned. So I just think that
you should use all your resources in order
to be connected to the outside world. Dr. Jean Hernandez:
So just to include National Science Foundation has
some wonderful summer programs. So if you’re in a rural
area you might get to go to Kalamazoo, Michigan,
or, you know, MIT for the summer and learn
about sciences. So kind of keep an
eye on those things. Lisa Jackson:
Very good. Dr. Cady Coleman:
And I want to say I’m a big believer in the virtual
world, I’m a commuter, my husband and I have
commuted for 20 years between Massachusetts and
Texas, and so we often think about, you know,
I mean, video isn’t everything, but we read
stories over the phone, over Skype, you know, try to
think about what we can share. And this NASA program
that I talked about, NASA Girls, is virtual mentoring. You can be anywhere,
I guess we say in the country, but actually
I don’t know why it’s limited to the country. You know, you could be
anywhere you could get to a computer and you could
be part of this five-week mentoring program. Lisa Jackson:
Wow, that’s cool. All right, questions. Then we’re coming
to the back here. Yes. Laura Jones:
My name’s Laura Jones,
I run a girls program called Girls
Excelling in Math and Science. What do you say to girls
or how can you help all of us who work with young
girls, say to them who say, well, I’m afraid
about getting into a highly-disciplined field
like math or science because I also want
to have a life. (laughter) Bianca Bailey:
I’ll answer that one, since I’m currently
a college student. I still have a life, and
in fact, I don’t think of myself as a typical
engineer because I ran for Miss College of
Engineering Architecture and Computer Science,
and I was a part of the Homecoming Court
for about a year. So you can still have a
life and still be in STEM. I was also in the
marching band. I play clarinet and
trumpet as well. So I was doing
that as well. So you can still be a
pretty lady, a lady that is involved socially. I’m also a member of a
sorority, so there are a lot of different things
that women in STEM can do to, for you to be able to
balance out your academic and your social life. And the key is balancing
social and academic. And once you’ve got that
key you’ll be successful. You’ll be good. Lisa Jackson:
Wow. You’re in a lot. She has a lot of
life, I think. Congratulations, Bianca. (laughter) Okay, we’ll take one
more from the audience. Crystal Romine:
Hello. My name is Crystal Romine,
(phonetic) I’m a graduate student, doctoral student
at the University of Maryland studying
Environmental Science, and I’ve personally — I can
personally say that I wouldn’t be in that role
if it wasn’t for mentors. Can you all speak a little
bit on the importance of these young girls
developing relationships with women who are already
in STEM fields and the importance of women in the
STEM fields reaching back and maintaining relationships
with young women. Lisa Jackson:
And that’s such an important topic, everyone should
feel free to take a couple minutes on that. So why don’t we go across
our panel and start with Dr. Coleman. Dr. Cady Coleman:
Well, I mentioned the mentoring program that’s a
pilot this summer. I mean, that’s why NASA is
doing this, is that we’re seeing that with girls
they often need someone to look them in the eyes,
whether it’s over the internet or not, and say,
you know, you can do this. Let’s talk about
what you can do. I know it’s actually
important for me. You know, I am somebody
that just deals better with a little advice,
a little help, a little sharing. We have a lot of really
neat women at NASA. When I first applied to —
was thinking about being and applying to be an
astronaut, Dr. Kathy Sullivan who’s now a
Deputy at NOAA and a former astronaut, she
took, you know, half an hour to talk to me at a
science fair and it meant the world to me. It made me feel like I
was worth this astronaut talking to me for half
an hour about how I could apply. And I actually need
that kind of confidence building, that kind of
reinforcement, and so I urge the girls that are
here to realize that wanting to reach out,
even if it seems like the stereotypical guys don’t
seem to need that, you know, you reach out, you
grab what you need because you are going somewhere. And for the folks that
are adults in the room, realize that it is our
job to look around for the people that don’t know how
to ask, and look at them and try to figure out what
they need and what you can do for them so they can
be part of the future. Jocelyn Goldfein:
I think it’s hugely important that the women
who are in these fields really model for girls
that these are jobs and careers for women, too. And, you know, I think
it’s so difficult when, you know, I read my
children storybooks and all the nurses are women
and all the doctors are men. And what does that tell
her when she’s a little girl and grows up with
that kind of, you know, vision, that these
fields are not for her. And, you know, my own
field, computer science, is actually one of the
worst for gender balance, so STEM as a whole is
maybe 30, 40 percent female. Computer science graduates
are actually between 15 and 20 percent female. And so when a girl gets to
college and thinks, well, maybe — I don’t know for
sure, I didn’t know for sure. But I’ll try it. I’ll take that first, you
know, computer science class. And she walks in that room
and most of the people are men, are not women. It is easy to have this
kind of instinctive reaction of, oh, my
goodness, I don’t belong here. Have you ever walked into
the wrong bathroom by accident? (laughter) Right? Like, oops,
I don’t belong here. That can be your feeling. When you walk into a room
where absolutely no one looks like you or very
few people look like you. And so I think that one of
the most important values of role models is just so
you can believe that this is something that
people like you can do. And when I go talk to the
women who are in my field, what I find is very often
there’s a family member, can be the mom or the dad
or an aunt or an uncle or cousin, there’s someone
who went before them in the field. So even if they’re
not looking around the classroom and seeing folks
like them, they know of someone in that field
that preceded them. And so I think what we’ve
got to do as the women in this field, what all of
us are doing here today is really standing up and
putting ourselves out there so that you know
there are people like you doing this. And that you can
do this, too. Bianca Bailey:
So what I call my cabinet of mentors is my me cabinet. And so basically in my
me cabinet there are different types of people
in my me cabinet that serve different
purposes in my life. So I might have a
mentor that helps me academically, so that may
be one of my professors at school, and there may
be someone who helps me personally with just my
financial decisions or, you know, deciding, well,
what internship am I going to do this summer? What’s better
than this option? So I really encourage
everyone, even if you’re older, I mean, mentors are
great for everything, and having a mentor has really
helped me in my life because I was raised by my
father, so having a female mentor in my life has
really helped with just developing me
into a young lady. And I would also encourage
you to get a male mentor because the world is mixed
with males and females. (laughter) So always
having a male perspective gives you a true and
honest perspective as well of the world. So a balance. Dr. Jean Hernandez:
Thank you. I’m going to do a little
shout-out for three of our faculty. Mary O’Brien teaches
chemistry, Rachel Wade teaches physics, and
Kay Latimer teaches information technology. Every one of those women
I see them all over campus with students around them. I hear students at
meetings, you know, give them accolades. You have to connect
with faculty. And that to me is a very
powerful mentor for you because not only do they
know the field, they know the pathways. So if you’re thinking,
well, I don’t really like math, I’m not really sure
I want to go quite that math route, they can help
you figure out which of those science fields
are going to be most complementary for you, and
they also will help give you encouragement. So I think that’s a really
important part of mentors. The other part at the
other end when you graduate, there’s such
a need for that informal networking, mentors will
probably know people in the field and
help you get jobs. Lisa Jackson:
Okay. And we have time for
one more question, so I’m going to take it, I
guess, from one of our web questions. And I’m trying to pick one
that’s sort of — there was one that was kind of
fun, I’ll just ask it, but don’t answer it, which is
what role does TV play in the stereotypes
about women. (laughter) Maybe we can
all think on that a little bit. But, you know,
interestingly enough, we heard that not long ago
that CSI has done more for reengaging a lot of young
people in science and math. So I’m always glad when
there are females on CSI who are doing some of the
scientific inquiry along with the males. But I guess we’ll end with
this one, which is does the panel have any advice
for graduating students. And I’m going to go
even before graduation. I think many of you
touched on this, who are looking for positions
in these fields. So obviously, at the end
of the day, believe us, the parents in the room
want you to get a job. That’s important to us. (laughter) But how about
when you start thinking about the career end? And Bianca, I’ll start
with you, but I’d ask everybody to sort of close
out on this topic, which is you should always be
thinking a little bit about career planning. And how about some advice? Bianca Bailey:
Some advice on career planning. So me, I’m a person, I like to
have my hands in everything. I don’t like to put all
my eggs in one basket. So just deciding on what
specific career I wanted to do was a little tough,
but like I said, I had mentors that helped
me make really good decisions. In addition to that, a
lot of times when you’re graduating from high
school and even from college, people always
want to press you to work in corporate America or
work, you know, somewhere else instead of another
option, which is going back to school. And so for me, I want to
be an expert in my field, so I decided to, you know,
sort of push the, you know, corporate 9 to 5
thing aside for a while, and then I decided to get
a Masters in
Environmental Engineering. So I think gaining as much
knowledge as you can is always great, but also
make sure that you’re able to use that knowledge
after you’re done gaining it. Lisa Jackson:
Cool. Jocelyn. Jocelyn Goldfein:
One thing Facebook really looks for in the college
students that we hire — and by the way, about
30 to 40 percent of the engineers we hire every
year, we hire straight out of college. So those are, absolutely
you are qualified with a computer science degree
after college to go work for any of the great software
companies in this country. One thing we always
look for is good summer internship experience. So don’t wait until your
senior year to start thinking about this. Use those summer
internships both because they’ll help you get jobs
later on, but actually also because they’ll help
you figure out what you might want to do, what
you might want to be. If you try a summer
internship with an enterprise software
company or consumer software company or —
you will get some sense of what you’re
passionate about. And your own passion for
the field is a lot of what qualifies you, is a lot
about what gets a company excited about you and
wanting to hire you. Another thing that we
have the luxury of in the software world is
really side projects. So even if you are, you
know, closing in on senior year and maybe haven’t
had all the internship experience that you want,
maybe it took you a while to figure out what you
wanted to do, I love anything that shows that
you have care for and passion for the subject. So did you go write
your own i-Phone app? Did you go make your own
Facebook application? Did you go contribute to
an open source project? If you are not in computer
science but one of the other STEM fields, did you
do these projects on the side that were not just
dictated to you by the classroom or the academic
environment, but that showed your own personal
passion for this sphere? And those kind of things
really make you stand out. Lisa Jackson:
Dr. Coleman? Dr. Cady Coleman:
So, I’ll address the nuts and bolts of, you know, we
talked about goals to have, and to do anything
of the things that we’ve been talking about here,
you’re going to have to apply. First of all, no one’s
going to just pick you, you know, I mean, no
nobody called me, I applied. And for internships,
you’re going to have to apply, you’re going to
have to write down on a piece of paper or on a
computer why somebody reading that, reading
it fast and skimming, is going to want to
know more about you. And so we talked about
science, technology, engineering, and math,
writing and communicating are a big part of what
you need to think about because you need to make
those opportunities for yourself and it’s just
part of being in the field. And so think a lot about
these applications. Think about how to
represent what you do without, you don’t want
to be like a big braggart, but if you don’t tell
people about who you are, they won’t know and
they can’t pick you. And let’s say you’re
constrained at home and you are taking care of your
little brother and sister. Well, why don’t you write
that up as how many hours a week, 20 hours a week
child care and tutoring. You know, and
then explain. You never want to
misrepresent things, but realize that the things
that you do are important to advertise to really
interesting places like NASA, Facebook, community
colleges, the programs that Bianca’s
talking about. So communication. You’ve got to do it. Lisa Jackson:
Thanks, Dr. Coleman. Dr. Cady Coleman:
Yes. Dr. Jean Hernandez:
And when you’re baby-sitting, start doing science
projects with them. (laughter) So I have a
homework assignment for you, because this is
my piece of advice. Your family is probably a
wealth of connections you didn’t even think about. So in the next week, I
want each of you to ask at least two or three
relatives if they know somebody you could call
and ask them about their job or somebody you could
call and ask if you could go shadow them
in their job. How many of you are
willing to do that homework assignment? Okay, almost everybody. A couple of shy ones. But I hope you’ll
all do that. Thank you. Lisa Jackson:
Very nice. Well, and I’ll just
add two things. One, they both were in
the answers that we heard, which are first, anything
you do that you do as part of a team, I see we have a
lot of Scouts here, I bet a lot of you are part of
different activities, you heard Dr. Coleman, I heard
it from Jocelyn, Bianca, and Dr. Hernandez all
say you work in teams. You know, these courses
are designed to be really hard, and if your idea is
that you’re going to sit in a room and figure it
out by yourself because you’re really smart,
otherwise you probably wouldn’t be in science and
math, you’re smart, you’re not going to make it, no
matter how smart you are. And you’re going to feel
as though everyone else is doing well and maybe
you’re not doing so well. So anything you do right
now to get used to being in teams and working
together, sometimes leading, leadership is
good, sometimes not being the leader, but learning
how to contribute and work in that dynamic is going
to be really helpful. And that brings me
to my other point. Many of you are lucky. Your mentors, your
teachers all understand how important it is to find
these opportunities for you. But there are lots of
girls out there who aren’t as fortunate. So when you’re out on
social media or other places, make sure and
tell other girls about opportunities that might
be out there for them because not everybody is
as fortunate as you are or as the folks who are clued
in because they have great schools or great teachers
at those schools to be leaders. So please join me,
speaking of leaders, in thanking our amazing
panel, and let’s do it. (applause) Dr. Cady Coleman,
Jocelyn Goldfein, Bianca Bailey, and
Dr. Jean Hernandez. Thank you all very
much for joining us. Stay excited, and for more
information please go on the White House website,
WhiteHouse.gov, and click on the button for White House
Council on Women and Girls. There’s lots of
things going on. Of course we’re all about
science and math, but there’s lots of things
going on as well. Thanks very much. (applause)

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