By Todd Travis
Opening doors for Women in STEM
Rhiannon Vrooman and Mary Wang, juniors at Center Grove High School, have started a movement they hope will open doors for other students in the community and beyond – especially women. Both realized at different times in their life that they had a proficiency for the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field. As they pursued their interest, they quickly began to see that they were going into a field that was largely dominated by men.
“Out of all people in the STEM field, only 12% of them are women. We wanted to be the ones to bring more representation,” Wang said.
Instead of being intimidated by the overwhelming gap, they decided to lean into their passion and do something to encourage others to do the same. In September of this year, they started a club in school called “WiSTEM (Women in STEM).” They began with a callout meeting on Sept. 8 to spread the word about the club and had their first official meeting on Oct. 6. The club is quickly growing and has already had over 40 members join since they started.
After some research, they also found that there was an international organization which also supported women in the STEM field. They reached out to the organization and have been accepted as WiSTEM ambassadors for Indiana. You can see their profiles on the website: womeninstem.org. This support will help them to do more with their vision as they continue to grow and share their ideas with other women.
Bringing the mission into the community
The goal of the club is simple – to bring awareness to women in STEM and to help encourage others as much as possible. Vrooman and Wang believe by doing this they can help end some of the persistent stereotypes about the STEM field and to bring more role models into the field that young women can look up to. They plan to accomplish this by going out to the community and leading projects that will help others become aware of the STEM field early on. They even hope to visit preschools to begin planting seeds in even the youngest minds.
Vrooman started to realize her aptitude for STEM at a young age. As a young girl she found different ways to be creative and design things such as arts and crafts around the house. She even told her mom when she was in middle school that she was a “nerd for math.” Her parents recognized her gifts and encouraged her to go into STEM when she got to high school.
Wang didn’t realize that she was interested in STEM until she got to high school. She felt very confident in math and science and realized that STEM was an area where she could excel. As she got involved with STEM, she realized that there wasn’t anything at the school specifically for women. That’s when she and Vrooman got together to start WiSTEM.
“We were like, let’s start this club. We have to find a sponsor and get materials for the STEM fair. We wanted to have something for all women in STEM in school. At the last second, Mary was able to find our sponsor and she agreed to do it. And she was an English teacher, Mrs. Karen Gerhart,” Vrooman explained.
Vrooman and Wang hope that their efforts will have a long-term effect on the STEM field.
“I think long-term we’re hoping to see a shift and change in our community. Hopefully more women will be in STEM classes. We want to see that. In my STEM class, we have four girls, and we all sit in our own table. We hope to make that percentage more like 50/50,” Vrooman said.
The girls have some big plans coming up for the club now that it’s gaining some traction. Their hope is to create a small community, fuel passion in the community, give them scholarship opportunities, help promote STEM outside of school, have guest speakers of women in STEM and bring change to the community. They plan to have a guest speaker once each semester and have already scheduled Nicole Lamb-Hale, vice president at Cummins, to come speak to the club in January.
The stage has been set at Center Grove High School for women in STEM to have every opportunity available thanks to the efforts of Vrooman and Wang. Follow their progress on their instagram @cghs_women_in_stem.