MiSci STEMinista Project Gets a $50K Boost from Google Michigan

Google, like most other big tech companies, has struggled with a lack of diversity in its workforce. However, Google was reportedly the first industry giant to institute a diversity training program, even though the results seem to indicate that the issue lingers.

According to InformationWeek, a year after the program began, the demographic makeup of Google’s employees still stood at 70 percent men, 30 percent women, 2 percent African American, and 3 percent Latinx.

Anita Zukow, who works in marketing and leads Google Michigan’s community outreach efforts, said the company remains committed to fostering diversity. It recently awarded a $50,000 grant to the Michigan Science Center (MiSci) for its STEMinista Project, which will help bring more underrepresented girls into the science and technology fold.

“STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] is one of our core passions, but we’re lacking representation of girls in these roles,” Zukow said. “Research shows almost 75 percent of middle school girls are interested in STEM, but less than one percent go on to pursue college degrees in computer science.”

The STEMinista Project ultimately seeks to increase the number of fourth through eighth grade girls who choose careers in STEM fields. MiSci will use the $50,000 from Google to further the reach of the project, which is designed to spark and maintain an interest in STEM among female students, broaden the pipeline of female students who want to pursue STEM careers, and engage girls with authentic STEM experiences that boost confidence and skills. The project also offers scholarships to low-income and underrepresented participants. MiSci will host its first overnight hackathon, which will teach STEMinistas how to turn their ideas into online businesses, on Oct. 14.

According to STEMinista Project organizers, Michigan’s tech workforce and economy are hindered by two critical challenges: the need for tech workers is outpacing student interest in STEM fields, and women continue to be underrepresented in these areas. The STEMinista Project is focused on increasing inclusion and diversity in STEM education, which will hopefully lead to a more robust tech workforce.

Zukow said Google Michigan has supported a number of community initiatives throughout the years and is excited to infuse some much-needed capital into the STEMinista Project.

“We’re trying to inspire kids to create tech and not just use it,” she added. “Keeping them passionate is the goal.”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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