Looking ahead to Girls Do Hack, which Teza will be sponsoring this November, Misha was inspired to share some tips for encouraging girls to participate in STEM. Here are his thoughts:
I am passionate about STEM education for all youth, particularly girls. Opportunities in STEM careers continue to grow and these jobs are typically well paying and vitally important to our community. Promoting STEM learning to girls is imperative as women currently represent only 24 percent of the STEM workforce.
When my wife and I first arrived from Russia to the United States, we had little more than $100.00 but that didn’t matter because we both had great educations in STEM fields. Our educations provided us with a solid foundation to secure advanced positions with top companies. In 2009, I founded Teza Technologies, a science and technology driven global quantitative trading business, where I serve as CEO.
STEM professionals are one of the key ingredients that have helped to make Teza Technologies a success. Beyond Teza, America will need a pool of STEM educated professionals if we are to remain the economic and technological leader of the 21st Century’s global marketplace. For those reasons, my firm and I are active supporters of STEM education initiatives. I serve on the board of several nonprofit teen organizations including buildOn, After-School All-Stars, and After School Matters, which are all developing and facilitating exciting programs to keep teens safe and help them succeed in school and life. Many of these programs are intended to inspire young people – particularly women and minorities – to pursue careers in STEM. For example, for the past two years, Teza Technologies has been the presenting sponsor of The Adler Planetarium’s Girls Do Hack event to empower young women to consider STEM careers.
These leadership experiences have helped me understand the best ways to support girls in STEM. In an effort to further advance the cause, I would like to share some of these lessons:
- Make it Magical: We have all heard the criticism of fairy tales that end with the Princess marrying Prince Charming and living happily ever after. Why not use bedtime to encourage more dynamic dreams and aspirations? I tell my (previously physics-allergic) 10-year-old daughter physics fairy tales in an effort to playfully illuminate for her this exciting field and now physics is her favorite subject. I don’t know if she will chose a STEM focused career, but I want to do my part to ensure that, at minimum, she is exposed as early as possible to this exciting path. As Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
- Invite a Friend: A teen girl who is interested in studying aerospace engineer in college recently confessed to me that she felt intimidated in her high school physics classroom because her classmates were almost all males. We discussed how she should use the opportunity to show the boys that she was smarter than they may have thought. Additionally, I told her to bring a friend to class next time. Strength in numbers!
- Do Science: I borrowed this concept from Michelle Larson, CEO of The Adler Planetarium, who tells women in STEM to be a verb – an active one. When teens participate in STEM education opportunities, they get to experience it hands on, and they see their peers doing it. Positive peer pressure has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to change attitudes and behavior. Furthermore, it can be more fun and beneficial to share activities with friends.
Despite all of the conversations that have been percolating, gains for young women in STEM fields are slow to be realized. We all need to be part of the solution and position ourselves to take advantage of every opportunity to close the gap.