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Women Leaders Help Girls and Youth Explore the Possibilities of Careers in STEM

By YWCA Minneapolis
May 10, 2021
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May 10, 2021

Last month, YWCA Minneapolis Girls Inc. collaborated with 3M and Cognizant to provide youth with an interactive dialogue to help them imagine and visualize career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

A Panel of Women Leaders from 3M and Cognizant

3M is a global science corporation that develops, manufactures and sells more than 65,000 products with its headquarters in Minnesota and Cognizant is a leading professional services company that transforms clients’ business, operating and technology models for the digital era.

Judith Garcia Galiana, vice president of 3M Global Service Centers, Romena Akhter, Transformation, Technologies and Services lead at 3M, Christina Gilquist, Market to Cash End To End Solution leader at 3M and Manju Kuruvila, senior manager at Cognizant formed a panel to engage with Girls Inc. youth.

Our panelists were all passionate about coaching the next generation of STEM business leaders.

Panelists answer youth questions via Zoom

Answering Youth-Driven Questions about Careers and Life

The panelists provided us with their bios ahead of time; we shared them with our youth participants and asked them to submit questions. The event began with brief introductions, and next, each panelist took turns answering some of the prepared questions: What is one thing you like the most about your job? What is your favorite animal? What is the biggest project you have done? If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Learning about the Reality of Being a Woman in STEM

From the Q&A, youth learned some fun and profound things about the guests before we went into breakout rooms. The breakout rooms offered opportunities to have conversations between the panelists and youth. Questions from youth framed our discussions, which included more STEM-focused topics, including specific things they have learned from being a woman in STEM. 

Takeaways and Lessons: Women Can Lead!

Girls Inc. participants had many takeaways from this enlightening event. Some of the lessons they learned? Women can lead in STEM businesses! Success isn’t a straight line, and often, careers take roundabout paths. Be open to possibilities. It is never too late to succeed or start something new. And, there is an activist in all of us!

Events like this are essential to expose girls and nonbinary youth to new career possibilities and positive role models in STEM industries. Women make up only 28 percent of the workforce in STEM. For women of color, this percentage is even smaller. Gender stereotypes, fewer women role models and the male-dominated culture of STEM classes, programs and workplaces are all barriers girls face when pursuing their interests in these fields.

YWCA Minneapolis’ Girls Inc. Eureka! program is a first-of-its-kind in the Twin Cities, designed to help nurture young girls’ interests in STEM fields, while supporting them through high school graduation and preparing them for the next steps in their post-secondary education.

This career exploration session was generously sponsored by 3M Open.