OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ayah Syeed and Sakina Ahmad of Girl Scouts Troop 920 discuss their award-winning robotic design during the Verizon panel to promote STEM among girls. (AFRO/ Photo/Shantella Y. Sherman)

A group of local Girl Scout troops heard firsthand about the benefits of embarking on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM careers from female employees of Verizon’s operations, wireless, and state government affairs departments.

Karen I. Campbell, vice president of State Government Affairs for Verizon D.C. said the partnership between Verizon and the Girl Scouts helps open a dialogue between professional women and the girls they hope will join their ranks in coming years.

“STEM teaches you how to think analytically and to take the really complicated stuff and narrow it down,” said Campbell, who holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering management and a minor in engineering psychology. “Helping girls understand that in a room of 25 engineers, only three would be women and that 80 percent of the jobs in the future will require science, technology and math, means making them aware of the benefits and opportunities open to them.”

Lidia Soto-Harmon, CEO of Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, said that the introduction of STEM careers, and even STEM merit badges, follows a tradition established in 1915 by Girl Scouts founder Julliette Low.

“Girl Scouts is 102 years old and its founder created the first aviator badge in 1915 even before women were allowed to drive cars. She was thinking very early about how we get girls interested in non-traditional jobs,” she said. “It’s really all about shattering that perception that science, technology, engineering, and math are men’s jobs.”

The panel and mentor sessions with professional women in the STEM industry reinforces the Girl Scouts’ mission of opening possibilities to girls, and according to Soto-Harmon will help girls enter an employment sector consisting of 75 percent men.

The Girl Scouts STEM Program currently consists of introducing girls of every age to STEM experiences relevant to everyday life.

Ayah Syeed and Sakina Ahmad of Girl Scouts Troop 920 said that their interest in STEM grew primarily from a love of robotics and the challenge of trying to join an all-boys science team in school.

“The boys really didn’t want girls in their club, so I decided that the girls should have one of their own,” Syeed said. “We were really dedicated to figuring out how to craft the best products and it was cool to do something a lot of boys thought we couldn’t.”

The girls’ team triumphed with a 3rd place showing in a recent competition, which also convinced other girls to consider science fun.

“I have always been interested in robotics and I was able to convince a group of girls that it was cool,” said Ahmad. “It’s really cool also that the Girl Scouts is introducing girls to different experiences that we never thought of as careers so we can see how something that is really awesome can also be our profession.”