Girls get tech savvy


Kirsten Crossgrove’s Feb. 27 STEM workshop had students isolate DNA from strawberries and bananas.

Kali Anditon, Assistant Business and Technology Editor

A well-rounded education is important to the youth of today, and especially for young girls. But throughout history women tend to work within fields that connect with nurturing skills, and are seen less within industries of science or technology. So this year the American Association of University Women (AAUW) is working alongside the Office of Continuing Education to attract young girls to STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) with a special event called Tech Savvy Virtual.  

“STEM is important to the minds of young girls because there are still so many opportunities for amazing discoveries,” says associate professor of biological sciences and presenter Kirsten Crossgrove. “I got involved in STEM because I wanted to be a veterinarian, which is why I majored in biology. I took a class my senior year called Nucleic Acids and Molecular Genetics, and thought it was the most interesting stuff I’d ever learned. I was hooked.  If we don’t encourage girls to be interested in STEM, we lose half of that potential.” 

The event grabbed the attention of 119 participants, three of which were also middle school boys. There were two Saturday workshops featuring presenters that talked about careers in STEM. Tech Savvy Virtual also created specialized supply bags for participants allowing them to work through their chosen workshops. 

“Research has shown that girls between the sixth grade and ninth grade start to make choices that will lead them into their future,” says co-president of AAUW Carole Salinas. “STEM is an area at which women are underrepresented – only about 28 percent of people in STEM are females compared to a much greater number of men. If we can get these girls interested and hooked on some of this before they get too far along in high school, they can make different choices for their future.”

After the pandemic outbreak, the event was pushed to this spring and held virtually for students around the Whitewater area. By being online, the event allows students to choose four workshops out of the 12 offered. Six were presented at each of the Feb. 13 and Feb. 27 dates with presentations in biology, chemistry, computer science and more. 

The presenters all work within the STEM field, enabling students to see the impact of the field on women like them. Many presenters were excited for the opportunity to show students the possibilities of a STEM education. 

“There is a story behind each of our presenters, how we found them and so forth,” says Tech Savvy Virtual co-chair Margaret Winz. “I thought this would be an impossible task – this is an all-volunteer event. When we contacted them and said, ‘this is what we’re doing, and we would love it for you to be one of our presenters,’ many of them thanked me for the opportunity. These women are so passionate about what they’re doing and they’re so excited to bring that joy of their chosen field to other girls. I am so impressed by the quality of women we are working with and their enthusiasm and their willingness.”  

AAUW is dedicated to empowering and advocating for women, and their work for Tech Savvy Virtual is encouraging more opportunities. With the help of presenters, AAUW and the Office of Continuing Education are opening the doors of STEM to young girls in Whitewater and beyond.