A Statement from Girls Inc. President and CEO Judy Vredenburgh on STEM Education and President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address
NEW YORK - January 26, 2011 — Girls Inc. applauds President Barack Obama for his recognition of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and achievement as vital to the success of our nation.
Among the guests invited to sit in the First Lady’s box last night were Ursula M. Burns, Chief Executive Officer of Xerox Corporation and a pioneer for women in engineering, and five high school and college students with STEM concentrations, four of whom are young women. We thank and commend President Obama and the First Lady for including these guests and thereby highlighting the importance of STEM education for girls.
Unfortunately, the accomplishments of these illustrious guests do not reflect our nation’s current position in this area. Yesterday, the National Center for Education Statistics released the Science 2009 Report Card, finding that fewer than 35 percent of fourth and eighth graders and only 21 percent of twelfth graders demonstrated proficiency in science. Alarmingly, it also demonstrated evidence of the continuing gender gap. Overall, male students scored higher than female students at all three grade levels on assessments. This discrepancy was widest among twelfth graders, with a six-point gap between boys and girls (153 and 147, respectively, on a scale of 0 to 300).
For over 25 years, Girls Inc. has been a leader in providing girls ages 6 to 18 with informal STEM education through afterschool programs across the United States and Canada. Girls Inc. Operation SMART® is a research-based approach that helps girls develop enthusiasm for and skills in STEM. Since 1985, more than 750,000 girls have experienced hands-on activities as varied as dissecting a frog and building and operating robots, interactions with women pursuing STEM careers, and the chance to explore, question, and problem solve in a supportive environment.
The results include young women like Virnetta Green of Alabama, who after attending the Girls Inc. Operation SMART® program decided to pursue science in college. She credits Girls Inc. with giving her the courage and inspiration to become a civil engineer working in construction, even when she is the only woman in the room.
As Girls Inc. continues to inspire and educate girls like Virnetta, we ask the federal government to honor President Obama’s call to provide opportunities for all citizens and to support the private, nonprofit, and educational sectors in fostering girls’ success in STEM fields.
(212) 509-2000 ext. 237