SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Hundreds of eighth-grade girls from around Siouxland got a better glimpse into the world of science Friday at the 24th Annual WINGS Conference, held at Briar Cliff University.
In 2009, the science, technology, engineering and math fields, better known as STEM, were roughly 75-percent male and 25-percent female. That's why nationally, organizations started to take action.
But here in Siouxland, the Young Women Investigating Science & Mathematics (WINGS) Conference has been mentoring young girls for 24 years.
“Women can do everything that guys can do. We're just as important.”
— Eighth-grader Alexa Scheitieler
Organizers believe the event is a way to decrease the gender gap found throughout the STEM fields and also give young girls an opportunity to cultivate interest in the science fields. That's where women across Siouxland come in from all fields from forensic science to medicine to engineering.
For some moderators and presenters, their own paths were formed from programs like these. They said it's never too early to stir interest.
"We're starting young: eighth grade; I'd even be interested in starting younger than that because you kind of get them thinking about what I need to take in middle school, in high school and college to get this kind of job," said Kacie Varilek, an associate chemist at Gillette USA.
Many girls at the conference we're already breaking the mold, like 14 year old Alexa Scheitieler, who's interested in being a graphic designer or chiropractor — and she's already learned a key to success.
"Women can do everything that guys can do. We're just as important," she said.
NOTE: Founded in 1990 by Michelle Nemmers, then an associate professor of mathematics at Briar Cliff, WINGS invites eighth grade girls from public and parochial schools within a 30-mile radius to participate in the annual one-day conference.