Q&A with Elizabeth Vandenburg on STEM Outreach, Mid-Atlantic Girls Collaborative

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Elizabeth Vandenburg, MAGiC

WashingtonExec chatted with Elizabeth Vandenburg, STEM Outreach Consultant and Co-Lead of Mid-Atlantic Girls Collaborative (MAGiC), an organization committed to bringing creative, talented and qualified workers into the workforce. The untapped resource?  Women and girls in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

WashingtonExec: Why girls and STEM?

Elizabeth Vandenburg: It’s a win-win for education, the private sector and all students.

Take, for example, a STEM invention by sixth-graders Ma’Kese Wesley and Isis Thompson. They created a UV-light lunchbox that sanitizes food between when it’s packed in the morning and unpacked at lunchtime.

“I didn’t know UV light could sanitize food,” an impressed President Obama told the girls at the 2012 White House Science Fair “That’s a pretty spiffy invention.” Spiffy, yes, plus educational and useful. Every day, girl serving organizations are motivating girls like Ma’Kese and Isis—as early as 3rd grade—to put them in the STEM driver’s seat. These are tomorrow’s innovators and leaders.

(Click here to to see the girls showing President Obama their lunch box).

WashingtonExec: Why should companies focus on girls and STEM?

Elizabeth Vandenburg: It just makes economic sense. Local companies need a skilled STEM workforce.  The hard fact is that across the STEM fields, job postings outnumber unemployed people by almost two to one.

We all know the 21st century economic engine is STEM innovation such as Internet safety and security and health IT and digital media.  All of us— venture capitalists, shareholders, defense contractors and CEOs—will benefit from employees strongly focused and educated in STEM.

What is the untapped resource?  50.8% of the U.S. population: women. Girls like Ma’Kese and Isis need to get in the pipeline. Consider the business opportunities that will grow from tapping into half our population’s energy, expertise, creativity and ingenuity. Simply put, if we want to take complete advantage of the creative resources we have available to us, we have to support women and girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

WashingtonExec:  You have Google, AOL and Microsoft representatives on your Champion’s Board.  Why?

Elizabeth Vandenburg: Two simple reasons: pipeline and PR.

These high-tech employers say to us, “How can we move forward if half our team is sitting on the sidelines?” They get it. They know they need to grow their workforce pipeline.  MAGiC is doing that, and companies want to be part of the solution. Becoming part of the solution, in turn, builds goodwill and is good for their bottom line. Investing in girls and STEM is an investment bound to pay off.

WashingtonExec: Tell us about the Mid-Atlantic Girls Collaborative (MAGiC).

Elizabeth Vandenburg: MAGiC  http://www.ngcproject.org/collaborative/mid-atlantic-girls-collaborative-magic-project

Is a coalition of corporate, educational and non-profit organizations dedicated to promoting girls and STEM.  We work locally–under a parent organization called the National Girls Collaborative Project—to change the equation by ensuring girls are at the table.  Our supporters include AOL, Google, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, National Science Teachers Association, AAUW, the Girl Scouts, and National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, University of Maryland Women in Engineering Program/Clark School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, and Fairfax and Montgomery County Public School science departments.

WashingtonExec: How can local executives support MAGiC?

Elizabeth Vandenburg: Contact me at EVandenburg@verizon.net or ask your public affairs, human resources, or community affairs staffers to do so.  Invest in your companies’ future workforce by joining our local coalition. Girls like Ma’Kese and Isis are shaping our future. Help us support them.

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