Why Today’s Girl Scouts May Become Tomorrow’s Engineers And Scientists

By Melissa Repko
The Dallas Morning News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Great Q&A with Jennifer Bartkowski, chief executive of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas who is helping to close the gender gap. From a unique camp that focuses on stem fields to special girl scout programs which foster entrepreneurship, Bartkowski is teaching girls they have everything they need to succeed.

The Dallas Morning News

At a camp with open land, cabins and rustic buildings, the Girl Scouts hope to inspire the engineers, scientists and coders of tomorrow. Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas decided to transform Camp Whispering Cedars, an aging urban camp in southern Dallas, into a place where girls learn about physics when playing on rope swings and about chemistry when they experiment in indoor labs. They can meet women scientists and engineers. They can learn about nature from a lookout tower and along a walking trail.

The effort is led by Jennifer Bartkowski, chief executive of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. Its aim is ambitious but simple, she said: closing the gap between men and women who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

The STEM Center of Excellence opened this spring, but the campus is still under construction.

Bartkowski said she’s seen the way the programs change girls’ thinking. During one science program, fourth- and fifth-graders draw pictures of what a scientist looks like. At the program’s start, almost all of them draw male scientists, many Albert Einstein characters with crazy hair. But by the end, she said, many draw women — and portraits of themselves.

Bartkowski spoke at the newly opened center. Her answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Question: Tell me about the inspiration of the STEM Center. What caused you to build it?

A: We had been approached by a number of companies — Texas Instruments was one — that really were worried about the future pipeline of STEM professionals in this community and expressed concern that there was a crisis on our hands, that there weren’t enough women engineers to hire. We started to think about what do we do best, and what we do best is we open doors for girls in this community and we give girls opportunities that they don’t get anywhere else.

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