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Society of Women Engineers

Outreach Member Spotlight: Debra Kimberling

Debra Kimberling promotes parent programs, attends educator forums and helps present engineering as a rewarding career option for girls.

Published On: March 2015

outreach_member_pic_octDebra Kimberling
I promote parent programs, attend educator forums and help present engineering as a rewarding career option to girls. I have presented to over 20 parent and educator forums and am a member of the Society Outreach Learning Workgroup, through which I share these lessons and help in the implementation of the Parent Educator Program resources for SWE members. I am also the advocacy director for SWE San Diego and help manage sales-order risk decisions as a member of the Product Support Engineering team for Solar Turbines, a subsidiary of Caterpillar.

Biggest Challenge
Expanding outreach events to include parallel parent programs. Most organizers simply have not thought about a parallel parent program or why it’s important. When 72 percent of high school girls express interest in math and science yet fewer than 13 percent would choose STEM as a first-choice career option, we need help. Outreach events are great for getting youth excited about engineering. But after one event is over, it is the parents and educators who will need to guide and nurture those STEM aspirations.

Favorite Message to Share with Parent and Educators
High-school girls have been outperforming boys in overall math and science GPA and credit hours for over 20 years. Most teachers are aware of how well girls are doing but less than five percent of the over 2,000 parents I have surveyed knew this fact. Many parents and girls still believe in the outdated idea that boys are in general better in math and science, which can cause a low-level (though devastating) psychological impact on how girls perceive themselves being successful in a STEM career. When informed, the parents and educators appreciate the need to send the message that both boys and girls perform equally well in math and science. Knowing this one fact can help parents and educators level the playing field in defining suitable careers for girls.

Favorite Resource to Share with Educators
Teachers can use help to introduce girls to the rewarding careers of engineering. My favorite resources to share are posters. Classrooms and school districts can help set the stage for what is considered an acceptable career for women by putting images of positive female role models in front of students. SWE’s Be That Engineer poster or Engineer Your Life flyers are a great way to help schools demonstrate engineering is a welcoming environment for girls. Another exciting new resource that was just approved is the pre-college SWE Club. In fact, several teachers and students who are interested in starting one of these clubs at their schools have already contacted me. I expect this will become an important part of high-school outreach.

Sponsored by:
Wisconsin – It’s time to take the lead – #2
SWE – SWE Research and Stats