ENGLEWOOD — Denise DeLong wants to remind future generations of women that they have role models in the world of science.
DeLong, STEM co-chair of the Venice branch of the American Association of University Women, assembled a display to celebrate the accomplishments of nine female contemporary Nobel laureates such as Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, Ada E. Yonath and Elinor Ostrom.
The display is near the entrance of Elsie Quirk Library, 100 W. Dearborn St. in Englewood, for the month of July to promote STEM careers for women. STEM is a hybrid education program that incorporates science, technology, engineering and math.
“I started with the most recent winners and worked backwards,” DeLong said. “I was given a grant by the state of Florida AAUW for $900 to work on the project. I was surprised at the number of contemporary women earning these accolades.”
Barre-Sinoussi won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2008 for her part in discovering HIV. Yonath won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2009 for her studies on the structure and function of the ribosome. Ostrom won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009 for her work demonstrating how forests, fisheries, oil fields or grazing lands can be managed successfully by the people who use them rather than by governments or private companies.
“Some are doing research and some are teaching are the ones winning these awards,” DeLong said. “There’s not a lot of publicity there through regular means except their peers.”
DeLong said throughout her research she discovered there wasn’t a comprehensive book that compiled the accomplishments of the women. She also had difficulty finding suitable photos of the women.
“The information is scattered,” she said. “I think in order to appeal to girls we need to have more interesting books.”
Kathy Black, president of the AAUW in Venice, said there is some headway with interest from girls, but women still have a long way to go.
“I think it’s getting better for women in STEM programs, because there is more awareness and emphasis in those fields,” Black said. “We’re seeing more women in those fields.”
Black said middle school is the best time to create impressions for girls about a potential career in science.
“Usually by high school they start to limit their own potential,” she said.
Black said financial issues add to the complications.
“A big problem in our classrooms is budget cuts,” she said. “Teachers are being squeezed as resources are being depleted. I would like to see if more money can be put in education and see more girls in the STEM programs.”
DeLong said the STEM events AAUW organized called Girls, Gadgetry and Galvanizing Genius have been a resounding success. AAUW started the events because of the declining role of women in STEMrelated fields.
“We had one female teen volunteer at the Jacaranda Library event,” she said. “We had four at the Elsie Quirk Library event. The girls were really receptive to the volunteers. For a girl to think about these fields, they have to have role models.”
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