What would our world look like if our most ambitious and capable girls were given a seat at the table? While STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) is a fast-growing occupational field, women remain underrepresented in STEM careers - particularly in leadership roles. This disparity can be traced back to young people as they begin career exploration. A 2017 study by Junior Achievement and EY found that 33 percent of boys are interested in STEM careers, while only 11 percent of girls planned to pursue the STEM field.
In our 100+ years of collaborative work to prepare young people of all backgrounds for a successful future, we’ve seen the positive impact a volunteer role model can have in the life of a student. That is why Junior Achievement teamed up with Accenture, Caterpillar, Pekin Insurance, and Peoria Magazines to connect young women attending high school in the Peoria Area with female mentors working in the STEM career field. Many of the young women who participated in this transformative educational experience are preparing to graduate high school and look to mentors as they prepare to navigate careers or higher education. One senior from Peoria Central High School noted, “I love how we got to talk to these women who have experience in a work force most people usually don’t go into. This allowed me to get advice on how to better my future and provide myself with more info about certain opportunities.”
Students were afforded the unique experience of attending Peoria Magazines’ annual Women of Influence Forum, —a tribute to women in the workplace and a way to bring the community together and empower women leaders. This immersive online event featured keynote speaker Jean Becker, Midwest Technology Lead at Accenture, as she shared her inspirational journey of perseverance. Additionally, because, “No one ever makes it to the top on their own,” as told by Erica Baird, Global Allied Product Manager, Caterpillar, discussed the value of building your personal network of mentors and supporters. During their event breakout session, students worked in small groups with female role models from STEM career fields and even developed their own personal elevator pitch.