Looking to break down the stereotype of what are male and female career paths, Pennsylvania College of Technology’s SMART Girls summer program gives high school girls the opportunity to see what some consider non-traditional occupations.
“It was started to combat the increasing trend of girls not getting into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields),” said Elizabeth Biddle, K-12 project manager.
The summer program, open to rising ninth through 11th grade females, started more than a decade ago and worked strictly with introducing students to STEM fields and has continued to see more girls participate in the program. Participants were given a week of hands-on activities and workshops.
The program now offers female students a look at STEM, as well as other “non-traditional” career paths for woman.
“The program has kind of evolved and grown because everything gets better with time,” Biddle said.
Campers interacted with a variety of Penn College faculty members in different departments in order to get a grasp of the subjects they taught.
“Faculty members are going to be engaging students in hands-on activities focusing on career opportunities in these fields,” Biddle said.
She added that the camp gives female students an opportunity to find career paths that they may previously had no understanding of. And by allowing them to explore these subjects of study, it gives them more options. Biddle reported that majority of females who seek post-secondary education do so through liberal arts.
“The real importance lies in, really, overall career satisfaction and quality of life,” Biddle said.
Biddle said those occupations that are traditionally male careers often have higher salaries. By giving woman the option of these careers, gets “the workforce more balanced.”
She added that although baking was added to the program, not just because of the opportunity to introduce culinary arts but for its use of mathematics and measurements.
Biddle, who also was a non-traditional female student as she studied plastics at Penn College, said by giving more equitable opportunities, it breaks down the stereotype of what woman can do in the workforce. She noted that when stereotypes, for both men and woman, are broken it allows everyone the opportunity to excel.
But the week wasn’t just about sitting in a classroom. Biddle said just in the first day, participants were talking about how much fun they were having.
“Overall our feedback is that these are really exciting opportunities for girls,” she said.