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Girls have chemistry with chemistry and other science and tech careers at ChemStars

December08/ 2011

“We recognize that there’s a definite gap between girls pursuing careers in science and technology compared to boys,” says Kim McDonald, marketing manager for the EcoCommercial Building Program at Bayer Corporation. That’s why McDonald joined other female mentors from Bayer and four other companies locally — BASF Corporation, LANXESS, NOVA Chemicals and PPG Industries — at the Carnegie Science Center on Nov. 12 for ChemStars. More than 125 girls in fourth through ninth grade locally participated in this hands-on program designed to get them excited about careers in chemistry and other science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The companies held a STEM career café for boys and girls last month, but McDonald says it is particularly important for girls to find in such technical fields as chemistry a practical application to their lives — and fun. The experiment stations at ChemStars, for instance, related chemical processes to everything from cooking to going green. “It gives girls a way to see that chemistry applies to their everyday lives,” McDonald says. “Once people feel a connection, they can really find a way to apply themselves. It’s important for girls to feel like they can have a connection to [STEM], that it’s something that they can get involved in and make a contribution.”

As Bayer MaterialScience spokesperson Lauren Dorsch points out, the years between fourth and ninth grade are “a time when girls lose interest in math and science,” so it is crucial to reach them at a young age. McDonald recalls how she maintained her own interest in science at that age: “I’ve always loved animals and that was probably the big driver for me. Parental involvement is important – my parents always motivated me, and I had I-don’t-know-how-many pets. Between grades 4 and 10 … I had that connection, that passion.”

Do Good:

• Explore the ways Bayer’s Making Science Make Sense program is bringing STEM subjects to local kids here.

Writer: Marty Levine

Sources: Kim McDonald and Lauren Dorsch, Bayer Corporation