1. Rita Karl
  2. http://national.tpt.org/about/who-we-are/
  3. Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
  5. Twin Cities Public Television
  1. Leah Defenbaugh
  2. SciGirls Outreach Manager
  4. Twin Cities Public Television

SciGirls Strategies

NSF Awards: 1513060

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Informal / multi-age

SciGirls Strategies: Gender Equitable Teaching Practices in Career and Technical Education Pathways for High School Girls empowers career and technical education (CTE) educators and guidance counselors to recruit and retain girls in non-traditionally female CTE/STEM studies and careers. The project acknowledges common barriers girls face when pursuing STEM pathways, including limited exposure to female STEM role models; stereotypes about girls’ lack of STEM ability and about STEM fields being “unfeminine;” girls’ low self-esteem around STEM abilities; lack of knowledge and/or misunderstanding of STEM fields; and a disproportionate number of male students and educators in CTE. Minority girls face the additional barrier of limited exposure to STEM role models who look like them. This lack makes it difficult for diverse learners to identify with STEM fields, even if they do well in and enjoy STEM studies. To address these obstacles, TPT produced a short-course for CTE/STEM educators and a series of video profiles featuring diverse female professional role models. Research shows that connecting girls to female role models encourages them develop STEM interest, and helps to dismantle the stereotype that STEM professionals are typically male, white and middle-class. This is particularly critical when some STEM fields (such as physics, mechanical and computer engineering) attract significantly more men than women, adding to the broader socio-historical perception of STEM fields as predominantly masculine. SciGirls Strategies videos work to change this narrative, lifting up the research indicating that role models improve students’ STEM identity by increasing attitude change, interest, and self-efficacy in STEM fields.


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Discussion from the 2017 STEM for All Video Showcase (11 posts)
  • Icon for: Leah Defenbaugh

    Leah Defenbaugh

    SciGirls Outreach Manager
    May 14, 2017 | 10:20 p.m.

    Who are your STEM role models? Who influenced you during your academic, work, or personal life? 

    Role models are integral to getting and keeping girls interested in STEM. Tell us about your experiences here, and find out more about our research on role models by visiting our SciGirls Connect website.

  • Icon for: Michael Haney

    Michael Haney

    May 15, 2017 | 10:27 a.m.

    That's an amazing collection of well organized videos with lots of depth.  This fulfills a huge need in a world with so few role models for young women who might consider STEM-related careers.  Of course, their impact depends on dissemination.  You reach out to conselors and have "produced a short-course for CTE/STEM educators."  Are these face-to-face or also done remotely through video?  


    These really should be distributed to every preservice science education program (middle and high school, at least).  They should also be disseminated through the various professional organizations to which educators belong.  What strategies do you have for broader dissemination?   Do you envision any mechanism (feedback or social networking) where student viewers and educators could inform you about how they use the videos and what changes might be helpful (additional topics, supporting materials, and so forth)?

  • Icon for: Rita Karl

    Rita Karl

    Lead Presenter
    Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
    May 15, 2017 | 12:16 p.m.

    Thank you for your questions. To achieve our project goal of increasing the number of girls who choose technology and engineering tracks in CTE-STEM programs by enhancing the teaching and coaching strategies of educators and counselors, we have a strong focus on the use of female role models. We locate and facilitate live role model interactions in CTE-STEM classrooms here in the Twin Cities and we also created and implemented this series of girl-friendly role model videos featuring diverse female STEM professionals and “near peers” for use in classrooms, but also for use in informal STEM programs.

    STEM industry role models have been shown to motivate and support girls by sharing their experiences and highlighting challenges and strategies for success. In this project we recruited 25 role models in non-traditionally female CTE occupations through our advisory board, 12 participated in the video series. Role models attended one of two one-hour webinars based on the best practices outlined in two SciGirls publications: the SciGirls Seven: How to Engage Girls in STEM and SciGirls Role Model Strategies: Encouraging Girls to Consider STEM Careers.

    Role models were encouraged to host workplace visits (field trips); visit school classrooms and guidance offices; and to offer mentoring opportunities in CTE school-to-work programs. We hosted a Role Model Meet and Greet evening that includes role models, educators and advisors. This evening included a screening of several of the role model video profiles featuring ethnically diverse Minnesota-based women in nontraditional technical fields at work and at home, describing their challenges and successes (also dubbed into Spanish for use with Hispanic audiences).

    We also shared this series via take-home posters, links, and a flash drive. Role model videos are available for participants (girls, role models, educators, counselors) at a project-specific vimeo site, for commenting (and you can unlock extras by completing a survey).

    They were also disseminated more widely by our local and national advisors, and by the role models themselves. Our advisors come from many national networks including the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE), IWITTS, SWE, AAUW and NCWIT. The videos also reach our 3,000 SciGirls' trained educators at scigirlsconnect.org.

    Videos can be seen (in English and dubbed in Spanish) on TPT.org, on YouTube, and at PBSLearningMedia, reaching 1.5 million educators and at PBSKids.org/scigirls. We have found that youth have been watching the series in large numbers online at PBSKids.org/scigirls and on the PBS Mobile Video App. Over the past year we have had 1,039,483 online video views.

    The National Girls Collaborative disseminated the videos via regional collaborative, national newsletter and social media. All female role models created profiles in the FabFems database of female STEM role models.

    Six of the episodes were compiled into a 30-minute television show that was broadcast on Twin Cities PBS twice in May of 2016. The show won a regional Emmy award in October of 2016!


  • Icon for: Michael Haney

    Michael Haney

    May 16, 2017 | 07:59 a.m.

    Great answer, thank you.  You have a firm handle on the use of the materials and a good sense of impact.  It seems the collection should grow as needs and career opportunities change.  Is my last question about ongoing networking with users relevant to the project or does this take the project into unrealistic areas in terms of the resources required?   

  • Icon for: Rita Karl

    Rita Karl

    Lead Presenter
    Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
    May 16, 2017 | 01:37 p.m.

    Thanks, Micheal.

    Do you envision any mechanism (feedback or social networking) where student viewers and educators could inform you about how they use the videos and what changes might be helpful (additional topics, supporting materials, and so forth)?

    Yes, we have a few mechanisms for feedback! All of our educators complete surveys and evaluations about how they use role models including videos. We are interested in the impact of FTF, Skype and other virtual synchronous vs. asynchronous "visits" with role models. All role models complete surveys after their visits. We are having a convening of role models in the fall for sharing successes including how their videos have been used. We have a screening in the fall for educators and counselors to discuss how they used the role models and videos. Girls can give feedback on a private vimeo page. I have an idea for researching the impact of role model videos, an often used learning object but one that takes many forms -- from talking heads, to journey stories, to those like ours that combine work, life, hobbies, family, obstacles, strategies for overcoming challenges, successes, role models, and advice for girls.

  • Icon for: Thomas Kalil

    Thomas Kalil

    Entrepreneur in Residence
    May 15, 2017 | 10:03 p.m.

    What partnerships (e.g. with cable, Internet firms like YouTube, etc.) would be most useful to you in terms of increasing dissemination and impact of these videos?  If you could call anyone, who would you call and what would you ask for?

  • Icon for: Rita Karl

    Rita Karl

    Lead Presenter
    Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
    May 16, 2017 | 01:43 p.m.

    We have a good following on YouTube but if I could call anyone at all, it would probably be Google. They have a diversity agenda around gender, specifically focused on how (and how many) women are portrayed in STEM fields in the media and we hope to further that agenda. A similar initiative is the focus of the Geena Davis Foundation. For youth dissemination, PBS is our most robust partner. Between PBS LearningMedia for educators, and the kids' PBS app and website (a trusted place by parents) we have reached a million youth with this series in one year.

  • Icon for: Anna Suarez

    Anna Suarez

    May 18, 2017 | 01:22 a.m.

    Hi Rita, terrific video and project! How long is the course with videos? 

  • Icon for: Leah Defenbaugh

    Leah Defenbaugh

    SciGirls Outreach Manager
    May 18, 2017 | 11:10 a.m.

    Hi, Anna! The course has six 3-hour sessions over 12 weeks, with online homework in between. We spread out the meetings in order to make sure the teachers have time to reflect on and implement their new knowledge.

  • Icon for: Janet Yowell

    Janet Yowell

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 19, 2017 | 11:51 a.m.

    Rita and Leah,


    Outstanding video... makes me want to do it all over again! I'm so interested in the notion of using social media to get more girls involved in STEM careers that sometimes I see videos like yours and think, "STEM is so cool, why wouldn't girls do it?" Then my practical side kicks in, and I have to remind myself of the facts that tell us the reality as it is now. That's our task!


    I wonder, have you ever considered partnering with the "Engineer Your Life" initiative through WGBH? They have a website (www.engineeryourlife.org) with all sorts of cool videos of women engineering role models. They too have been around for awhile, but it sure seems like linkages to each other's resources might be a good fit.


    Also, do you know of TechBridge's, Role Models Matter training? They at one time had funding available to provide training for how to be effective role models for girls. (The training was introduced, and offered initially, at an NGCP institute with Karen Peterson's group.) They too might be a worthy partner since role modelling is a big component of your program success.


    Thank you for the work you do to promote girls in STEM. It's great work.

  • Icon for: Rita Karl

    Rita Karl

    Lead Presenter
    Managing Director of STEM Media & Education
    May 19, 2017 | 12:15 p.m.

    Hi Janet!

    Yes, social media has worked very well for us for sharing these videos more widely across a variety of networks including SciGirls CONNECT and the National Girls Collaborative. We worked closely with Techbridge to create our SciGirls Role Model Strategies: Encouraging Girls to Consider STEM Careers guide and training programs for female STEM professionals introducing them to best practices for their volunteer efforts. Both Linda Kekelis and Nikole Collins-Puri, the former and current CEOs of Techbridge are advisors on our grant to update the SciGirls Seven strategies for educators. We do a variety of trainings of role models for different outreach programs and for corporations who wish to have their women trained and connected to outreach groups.

    We work with WGBH/PBS LearningMedia to showcase our Women in STEM series and the accompanying Role Model guide. We love Engineer Your Life!  It's a great program. We are currently producing a new series of Latina Women in STEM and have a nice cross-section (in both series) I think of women in all kinds of technology, engineering and science. Thank you for your comment!

    Please feel free to share any of our content with your social networks!

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