ENGLEWOOD — Denise DeLong recalled a time when she talked to a female doctor who graduated as an engineer but opted to return to medical school.
“Engineering is so underrepresented with women,” said DeLong, who is the STEM co-chair of the Venice branch of the American Association of University Women. “It’s nontraditional and difficult for women to fit in. Companies are going out of their way to try to attract women into the field.”
The events are called Girls, Gadgetry and Galvanizing Genius, an AAUW of Venice initiative to tour area libraries in Sarasota County to encourage middleschool girls to get more involved with the STEM program. STEM is a hybrid education program that incorporates science, technology, engineering and math. The next event will be at 10 a.m. Friday at Elsie Quirk Library followed by one at the Venice Library, 300 S. Nokomis Ave., on Nov. 2.
“We’re working with the AAUW,” said Cris Walton, youth librarian at Elsie Quirk Library. “They had done a program earlier at Jacaranda Library. We invited them to do the program here as well.”
AAUW in Venice has worked with the STEM program for over three years. DeLong, an Englewood resident, said the reason why the events are being held is because of the declining presence of women in science and technology.
“We felt the need to reach out to middle school students,” DeLong said. “Women aren’t typically seeing others as role models in those fields so they don’t tend to go in them. We need more role models.”
“It’s important to encourage our girls here to be interested in the science and the STEM areas,” Walton said. “We want to encourage their education to let them know that they can do these things as well as a man can.”
DeLong said they will also be working with the library in July to celebrate the accomplishments of women.
“Elsie Quirk is a wonderful library,” DeLong said. “We’ll have the women of STEM showing Nobel laureates. Many people think it’s just older women, but we’re seeing more younger women winning the (Nobel) prize.”
Walton said the library has been planning with AAUW for three months.
“Our registration is full at 24,” Walton said. “They’ll do six girls at a time and then they’ll do three to four sessions with the girls. We have a lot of volunteers from the AAUW, but it’s basically to encourage girls in STEM careers. So there will be something to do with science, technology, engineering and math.”
The future of women in science and technology does not appear to be bleak. DeLong found out a recent NASA report listing four of their eight new astronaut trainees are women.
DeLong said the events often fill up to capacity with parents willing to travel to the next event if they’re placed on a waiting list.
“We found that people will travel from all over to go to a future date to attend our events,” she said.
Elsie Quirk Library is located on 100 W. Dearborn St. Englewood.
For more information, call 941-861-1212.