By Dirk Perrefort
The News-Times, Danbury, Conn.
As an engineer with Praxair, Tamara Brown wanted to do more to attract women into the fields of math and science and technology.
That’s why in 2006 she founded Tech Savvy, a program that encourages female middle school students to enter careers in the fields of technology and engineering. Since then more than 8,000 young women have entered the program, which was launched nationally last year.
For her achievements, Brown, who works in Praxair’s Danbury facility, was recently named one of Fortune Magazine’s Heroes of the Fortune 500. She was also recognized for her work through the program in 2011, when she was named a “White House Champion of Change.”
“Sometimes all you need to do is give girls the options, tell them that they can, and provide an environment where they are free to explore,” Brown said. “I was fortunate as a child, I had a wide range of opportunities and was encouraged to study and do well in math. I was never told that a girl couldn’t do those things.”
While many girls are interested in technical fields in their early years, Brown said that interest tends to wane in high school.
“What we are trying to do is capture and encourage that interest while they’re young,” Brown said.
Through the program, middle school girls participate in a one day conference where they can meet females already working in STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) careers and have an opportunity to create real products that have meaning in their lives.
“The key is to allow them to explore different fields in a fun way,” Brown said, adding that the conference also incorporates a variety of other skills including negotiating, interviewing techniques and critical thinking.
The program also includes activities for parents and teachers to help them encourage young women to enter STEM careers.