Intel Engineer Shares 4 Ways to Encourage Girls’ Interest in STEM

During Women’s History Month, and every day, we celebrate women whose work improves our lives and enables progress. Today, we are sharing one Intel employee’s journey and her advice for inspiring the next generation of female innovators.

Dr. Arlyne Simon was born and raised in the Commonwealth of Dominica. Her mother, a teacher, and father (a civil engineer) encouraged her to explore the natural world, think critically, and problem solve. “They never pushed me into STEM, but they allowed me to question and experiment,” says Arlyne. Her passion and interests led her to Georgia Tech where she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering, followed by a doctoral degree in macromolecular science and engineering from the University of Michigan—where she was the only female in a 17-person lab during her last two years of graduate school. With an aspiration to work on cutting-edge technologies that help improve people’s lives, she joined Intel working as a systems engineer helping design one of the world’s fastest supercomputers.

“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”

But her experience in graduate school stuck with her. Girls often cite lack of female role models in STEM as a key reason they do not pursue STEM careers. Arlyne understands. Her father was a civil engineer, but she didn’t realize until college that there was more than one way to be an engineer. Now she’s determined to help girls discover and foster their STEM interests much sooner. To this aim, Arlyne accepted the invitation to become an AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors, an initiative designed to activate a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers. The program brings together 125 talented female STEM professionals across a variety of industries to serve as high-profile role models for middle school girls. It is founded on the belief that IF you show a little girl what women in STEM are accomplishing today, THEN she will change the world. After all, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

To further help girls see themselves in STEM, Arlyne authored a children’s book series called “Abby Invents.” The first title in the series, “Abby Invents Unbreakable Crayons,” stars a young inventor who is tired of her crayons breaking, so she creates the world’s first unbreakable crayons—and is awarded a patent at the end. The book demystifies the patenting process and introduces kids to design thinking. It also shows girls that STEM can help them solve problems they are passionate about.

 

How to Take Action

Arlyne wants everyone to help future innovators and STEM leaders succeed. But how do you empower girls interested in STEM? Her advice is simple:

 

  1. Get involved in your local community. Organizations like Girls Inc., Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, FIRST LEGO League, and Camp Invention are always, always looking for mentors to inspire and help girls thrive in STEM. And remember, you don’t have to be an engineer or work in STEM to help.
  2. Speak freely about your failures. Most of us have experienced self-doubt or imposter syndrome. I have certainly had my fair share of failed experiments. By sharing your struggles—STEM related or not— and how you overcame them, girls learn the value and strategies of problem-solving. They also learn that they don’t have to be perfect to be in STEM.
  3. Make it fun— and relevant. Show girls how STEM is applicable to their lives and their interests. If a girl loves music, introduce her to the science of lighting and set design. If she loves playing games on her phone, then introduce her to coding. The local organizations I mentioned above can help with activities related to these interests.
  4. Just do it. Don’t overthink it. Think of your younger self. What advice or words of encouragement would you have wanted to hear? Share that. And, remember, you don’t have to be a computer scientist or engineer to be a mentor. We should all support the interests of girls in our lives.

“Educate a girl, change the world”

With STEM, anything is possible, says Arlyne. “Engineering has taken me to incredible places. Places beyond my wildest dreams. I have worked on teams of brilliant innovators to invent new diagnostic tests, design syringes, design supercomputers and now architect solutions that advance medical imaging. If by sharing my story, I get to inspire at least one girl to choose a STEM career, then I have changed the world.”

You can change the world too. Join our team of role models and a culture of encouraging girls here: www.intel.com/jobs.

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