The program director of Girls Taking Action and 3M wants every girl to know that she can be a superhero through a STEM career.
Dr. Verna Price founded Girls Taking Action (GTA) in 2005 to address the rise in violent, destructive and delinquent behavior being exhibited by the female students at North High School located in Minneapolis. Today, in partnership with 3M volunteers, the program is piloting a new initiative to inspire girls to explore a career in STEM through hands-on experiences.
The partnership between 3M and GTA began with 3Mer Dawn Muyres, a chemical engineer currently managing the development of new products.
“3M has been involved with GTA for many years as an annual contributor to their fundraising efforts, but we had not taken a strong collaborative position until this year,” said Muyres. “With this year having a strong focus on increasing STEM experiences and STEM exposure [at 3M] this seemed like the right time to collaborate with GTA and get STEM content into their programming.”
This partnership is just one of the many ways 3M is currently committed to creating greater equity in our communities, business practices and workplaces. Earlier in 2021, 3M announced a goal to create five million unique STEM and Skilled Trades learning experiences for underrepresented individuals by the end of 2025.
To launch this collaborative effort, Muyres posted the project among the list of opportunities 3Mers could get involved with during 3M’s annual hackathon. This project was a part of the new “hacks to give back” program. Over three days, a team of 12 people, including 3Mers and GTA employees, worked together virtually to create STEM kits for girls, including DIY experiment guides, videos explaining the science behind cooking and gardening, a computer science bootcamp, STEM career charades flashcards, and more.
Three 3M interns were a part of this hack including two computer science majors Mackenzie Schliem and Erin Dolson.
“This hack specifically drew my attention because I wanted to be a part of getting girls interested in STEM. I know for a fact that I would never be where I am today if I didn’t have role models and mentors in STEM as I was growing up and starting to make career decisions,” Schliem said. “It’s really important for everyone to understand that they have opportunities there and that it’s accessible – and they’re fun careers to go into!”
Dolson and Schliem both felt strongly about giving back in the way they were supported going into a STEM field. The two of them developed the computer science bootcamp for the kit and also wrote an open letter to girls about being women in STEM.
“When I first started in computer science, it was really hard to find resources to continue learning,” Dolson said. “There really weren’t great resources for beginners especially. Often you think you can Google stuff and find an answer, but if you literally don’t know what to Google it’s hard to begin.”
With that in mind, the two of them made the coding bootcamp with ample resources and a cheat sheet for when the girls get stuck. Putting themselves back in the role of when they first started learning to code helped them to identify those areas and hopefully alleviate the challenges they once faced.
Beyond the work done during the hackathon, Muyres says 3M is expanding their partnership with GTA to a summer enrichment program led by 3Mers and Girls Taking Action and will continue during the fall semester before Girls Taking Action hopes to expand it to other regions worldwide.
Dr. Price says she’s excited about this partnership as it aligns well with the four pillars of the GTA program: “The first [pillar] is personal power. I want every girl to know that she can be a superhero through a STEM career. Through STEM careers, people are saving lives. They’re changing the world. I want our girls to be a part of that.”
“I want to thank 3M and their team for coming alongside with us to start a STEM program and create a STEM cohort for our girls,” Price said. “This is so important. If you look at all of the data of girls, particularity girls of color, who are pursuing STEM careers, it’s dismal. So the social impact for us is huge.”
If you’re interested in getting involved or donating to Girls Taking Action, go to giaction.org to learn more.
For more information about your career at 3M, check out 3M.com/careers.