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If you think Goodwill is just a thrift store-think again

Horizon Goodwill Industries (Goodwill) is on a mission to remove barriers and create opportunities. Barriers were broken recently as a group of young girls stepped up to take the lead in a Girls Engineering camp.

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Goodwill and Source America joined forces to show girls just how much fun it is to work in the Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) industries.

Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce.

The engineering students from Montgomery County Maryland had the task of helping Goodwill improve its efficiency and job accessibility for the E-Commerce division in Hagerstown.

Catharine Fleming, Chief Mission Officer for Goodwill, said, “We are so excited to work with these girls on a project that will improve our process and streamline our e-commerce tactics. Being a part of the Source America program is in direct relation to our mission to remove barriers and create opportunities. We are removing the barriers of disparity for girls that only boys can be successful in an engineering workforce. We love opportunities to create change.”

You may assume that most of the well-paid technical jobs in the STEM arena sit in Silicon Valley. According to Lockheed Martin, a giant aerospace and security company based in Maryland takes the top spot for the company nationwide with the most STEM related jobs openings.

Lockheed’s primary client is the U.S. government, and it has nearly 100,000 employees making Maryland a great place to encourage girls to head into STEM careers.

Recently the Girl Scouts of America added STEM badges in robotics, coding, and racecar design. According to the organization, the new badges hope to encourage women to enter STEM professions.

Twelve high schools within Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) offer a national pre-engineering program of study called Project Lead the Way (PLTW).

The young women were immersed in some hands on learning. Twenty girls entering ninth and tenth-grade this year from the twelve PLTW schools took part in an action-packed five-day camp, held this year at Rockville High School.

"The suggested projects for the girls ranged from creating an upgraded photography station with changeable backdrops -a lego/playmobil sorting/cleaning station, and a jewelry sorting station. Each team of 2-3 girls had about 8 hours over two days to complete their design projects and prepare a presentation with their model. I was very impressed with the level of design executed within 8 hours of shop time. Many of the girls had accomplished nearly functional prototype models of their creations and their presentations expanded upon the details and functionality to be added by further shop time and the materials that would be used in the full-size version,” says Rose Carroll E Commerce Manager for Horizon Goodwill.

“Girls need to have the encouragement to take an interest in STEM careers, especially engineering because there are so few women in these fields. As a society, we need their input, creativity, personality, etc. Women bring their unique perspective to projects. As a female in civil engineering, I was a minority, but I stuck with it, having support from my parents and the Society of Women Engineers. The number of women in technology fields is still small. I don't think girls need to try to "prove" anything--they just need to build confidence and have support. There are competent girls who may not have had exposure or support to consider a traditionally "male dominated" field. Plus, I want them to see that engineering is so broad; it can open doors to many other areas as well, including education, law, business, medicine, and so on.” Says Jennifer Forrest, Technology Education Teacher at Rockville High School.

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, Women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, although to a lesser degree than in the past.

The rates of science and engineering course taking for girls /women shift at the undergraduate level.

Forest adds, “This is our fourth camp, and I have been part of the planning team and organizer for each one. Our goal is to offer different/alternate themes each year. This year 4 of the girls returned from last year's camp.

Carroll adds, “My biggest joy in this experience was seeing the excitement the girls had for their designs and the pride they took in being able to help us make improvements to a living work environment instead of just a classroom exercise.

Female students' achievement in mathematics and science is equal to the boys and girls participate in high-level math and science courses at similar rates as their male peers, except for computer science and engineering.

According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, about 11 percent of physicists and astronomers are women. Just over 10 percent of electrical and computer hardware engineers are female, and fewer than 8 percent of mechanical engineers are women.

Goodwill is playing its part to help break down those boundaries and encourage more girls to take up STEM careers.

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