We Get Real AF

Ep 92: Getting 1,000,000 Girls into STEM with Teresa Drew, Million Girls Moonshot

September 06, 2021 Vanessa Alava & Sue Robinson Season 2 Episode 92
We Get Real AF
Ep 92: Getting 1,000,000 Girls into STEM with Teresa Drew, Million Girls Moonshot
Show Notes Transcript

Imagine if 1 million more school-age girls were engaged in STEM activities in the next five years... it could help close the technology sector's gender gap while expanding the talent pipeline.  This is the goal of the Million Girls Moonshot, and its director Teresa Drew chats with Sue and Vanessa about how her program is shaping the future.


Find Teresa Drew Online:

 LinkedIn

STEM Next Opportunity Fund
https://stemnext.org/teresa-drew/

Million Girls Moonshot

https://milliongirlsmoonshot.org/

 We Get Real AF Podcast Credits:

Producers & Hosts: Vanessa Alava & Sue Robinson

Vanessa Alava

LinkedIn Instagram Twitter

Sue Robinson

LinkedIn Instagram Twitter 

Audio Producer/Editor: Sam Mclean  

Instagram    Website

Technical Director: Mitchell Machado

LinkedIn   Reset Gaming

Audio Music Track Title: Beatles Unite

Artist: Rachel K. Collier

YouTube Channel Instagram Website

Intro Voice-Over Artist: Veronica Horta

LinkedIn

Cover Artwork Photo Credit: Alice Moore 

Unsplash 

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The We Get Real AF Podcast is a production of MicDrop Creative, telling stories that uplift, inspire and empower women worldwide.  www.micdropcreative.com


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Vanessa Alava  

Welcome to We Get Real AF everyone! I'm Vanessa Alava.

 

Sue Robinson  

And I'm Sue Robinson. We invite you to join us for smart conversations with amazing guests every single week by subscribing to the We Get Real AF podcast wherever you listen to podcast, and you can follow us on social our handle is @wegetrealaf and we've also just started a twitch channel where some of our recent content is being played. And you can find that at "We Get Real AF" on Twitch.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Yay. Look at us go. Our list is getting longer and longer the places we’re showing up! I Today we're joined by Teresa Drew, Deputy Director at the stem next Opportunity Fund, a venture philanthropy fund whose mission is bringing inclusive STEM learning opportunities to children focusing on gender equity in STEM careers. Teresa is currently leading their Million Girls Moonshot initiative, a program that will inspire and prepare the next generation of innovators by engaging 1 million girls in STEM learning opportunities through after school and summer programs over the next five years. It's no secret that Sue and I are passionate about closing the gender gap in underrepresented spaces and paving a new path for future female leaders. And it all starts by reaching and empowering our youth with the resources to thrive. So Teresa, we are so excited to finally have you with us because a long time coming. We spoke to you, like months and months and months ago and you're super busy doing all these wonderful things. So we're so excited. 

 

Teresa Drew  

Oh thank you. I am honored to be here. Super excited to chat and tell you a little bit about the work that we're doing and why we're doing it and and who we're working with and and how lots of other people can get involved. 

 

Vanessa Alava

Fantastic. Well, where can our listeners find you online? Let's start there. Well, a few different places. So they can of course Find us on our website. Stem next.org. The million girls moonshot has its own website. So that's million girls, men shot.org. And then I am on LinkedIn. trace it, you can it's Teresa Drew, LinkedIn and on Twitter at Teresa L. Drew, and also at girls Moonshot.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Awesome. Well, let's, let's dive in closing the gender gap in STEM. Explain that, why it's important to fix and kind of get into some of the cool things that you guys are all doing. 

 

Teresa Drew 

I know you all talk to a lot of really amazing women in tech, and they're dedicated and you all are passionate about this. And when we think about, you know, 25% of the computing workforce right now is made up of women we've got a long way to go just to hit parity. And then when we think about of those 25% only 3% are black woman and 2% are Latinex woman and that is, you know, frankly, pathetic. 

The work that I do at stem next Opportunity Fund, and through the Million Girls Moonshot is really focused on STEM learning beyond just the classroom. So that means where would a young person experience opportunity in the library - at the rec centers - at after school or before school program, summer camps…anywhere that happens outside of school. And we do that for one main reason, and we call it the opportunity gap. So what we know is that by sixth grade, most kids well all kids spend 80% of their time is outside of school, that's a that's a lot of hours that someone isn't engaged in the formal education process. Young people from communities of affluence or middle class communities have experienced upwards of 6000 hours more enrichment activity, then, a young person from a community of poverty and that equates to about five years have a learning gap that is significant. So that's just when you have the haves and the have nots. So we're thinking, Okay, we have a lot of time when young people are outside of their classroom. And if we can make sure that that time is spent, you know, engaging their minds, giving them fun and exciting activities that are high quality, that are growing their skills and increasing their belief in themselves, their confidence and their stem identity, we're taking advantage that those hours, and really helping to put them on a path towards economic prosperity. So black, and Latin x communities, young people are  75% of those young people are coming from communities of poverty. There's a huge disparity in access and opportunity. So I have a lot of work to do a lot of hours to fill with really high quality learning.

 

Sue Robinson   

So can you give us an idea of what that after school program might look for a kid? 

 

Teresa Drew

It's a safe space, they might be getting tutoring - they can get their hands dirty, they can build a space module, that they you know, that they can, you know, drop off the balcony and see what happens, and they get to explore, and they get to follow interests that are exciting to them. This is really important for girls. So so the more that we can create those kinds of opportunities, where they're working with high quality content, the educators are informed, they know the strategies that are that are engaging for young people. And then we're actually looking at the data that tells us whether it works. It's it's a it's a good win win experience for everyone.

 

Vanessa Alava  

What are the promotion efforts look like on for the program? I mean, you mentioned educators, so obviously, they're learning about the million girls moonshot in school, but what other things are you doing as a as an organization to get the word out to, to the children especially.

 

Teresa Drew

So our this initiative is unique? It is, it is a collective impact type of approach. So what we do is we work with partners all across the country. So we work with funding partners and corporations like Intel, and Lockheed Martin and Qualcomm, Panasonic, the list goes on, and then other foundations. And so we work with these corporations, because they share our vision, they know that they need a diverse workforce. Because it it you know, it unlocks an untapped potential women. And so they're working with us to help us create these systems that are eliminating the barriers for young people to experience STEM learning. We work with the after school community so that those educators who are working directly with young people across the country, have the content, the curriculum, the training, the tools, the supplies, the access to role models, the access Access to mentors. And then a system set up so that they can help support those young people through those experiences over time. That's what we're trying to build. So this is really not just about us going into one program in Dallas, it's about us going into a community and helping to lift up all the programs so that all young people, especially girls are able to have those experiences. And that the teachers are confident and delivering, is we know stem is intimidating. So we were, you know, again, we're not doing the direct delivery through this program, we're lifting up and building up a community of support that changes and shifts the way that educators work, and then also then influences the way that young people experience their STEM learning and are ultimately, you know, excited to, to pursue a stem journey.

 

Sue Robinson 

We hear a lot about the benefits of single sex education, at certain stages throughout a child's development just because girls tend to be more themselves and more open and more exploratory and braver in a single sex environment. So all that to say, do you see that in your program? I mean, how do you encourage girls to feel safe and comfortable want to participate in these programs? Because, you know, just as they find in the classroom, they're going to be in there with boys who maybe are more rambunctious or more “forward”, in their engaging with the activities. How do you address that?

 

Teresa Drew

So that's a great question. One of the the, I will say the main goal of the million girls moonshot is to cultivate and empower 1 million more girls with an engineering mindset. We call them the engineering mindset 10 habits of practice. And they are a set of skills, attitudes, and values that come with an experience that that would that would embody this. So it would be like teamwork. You know, the the standard engineering design process like prototyping, learn from failure, reiterate. But but we're we're also bringing in things like real world problems. So we know that these are girl friendly strategies. The after school space is co Ed. It's not just girls, right? So the girls aren't the only ones who are actually benefiting from this, this programming. So you have a teacher and an after school program, who's creating an equitable and inclusive space, well, it's benefiting the girl. And it's also the boys in that class are experiencing what it looks like for their peers, girls to be involved in their projects. They're all working towards the same agenda. And they're seeing each other be successful and supporting one another in that effort. And I think this is really unique, and it's really important for all of us today Because ultimately, those boys who are in that class, in the after school program with those girls and having that experience, they're all going to be working together. Someday. And if we are able to shift the mindsets of those young boys today, and when they're all in the workplace tomorrow, it's just going to get better and better. we can get there ln computer science we can get there in engineering.

 

Vanessa Alava  

We were just having a conversation today. Soon I about learned behavior. And I think that it's so important, this change of mindset, not just for the educators, but for the classmates being Gen, the boys, the gender that has kind of had this superiority, if you will, within our culture, for what you just said, I think in years past and generations past, it has is what they know is what they've seen. So to be able to see that at a young age that girls can do what we do, we are human beings, and we're equal. And we all bring something unique to the table just because human beings are all unique and different. That's where you start seeing the change. And it starts here with our youth.

 

Teresa Drew

I think it's empowering for all the kids who, who are experiencing this type of programming. I mean, when you create an equitable space, I mean, you're unleashing, you know, talent in so many people. So we have girls, we have non binary, no gender expansive, youth. Lack you, indigenous, you Latinx - we have a lot of people who have been left out of the stem economy, just stem thinking. And, you know, so we can like kind of shifts the way people think and create this space where we really are truly supporting one another. I mean, we will all be better for it, so a teacher who teaches in an after school or summer program, they are typically not trained to STEM professionals. So it's very intimidating for them to say, Oh, go do a stem lesson. And you're like, well, what, I don't know anything, I don't I don't know how to do that. Well, what we do know is that with a little bit of background in how to ask questions of young people, and how to support them working together in teams, and persisting through failure, those types of strategies alone will help the educator be more confident, and, and providing a stem based lesson or activity to young people. And then what that does is it'll and then you start to bring in, maybe you bring in a role model. And you bring in a role model who's the one who is a woman who a woman of color, and then you're now automatically creating a sense of a better sense of belonging and identity for those those girls in the classroom because they're seeing someone that maybe looks like them. And they are with an educator who feels confident and giving them the material that they're going to be doing. And I think if we do that often, we do it early, and we make it hands on and messy. It's even better. Mm hmm.

 

Sue Robinson  

The Word STEM in general, I think can be kind of intimidating to so many people because it feels so niche. So having, having teachers feel empowered that they can wrap their hands around these topics, these subjects, these projects, they can get messy, passes that confidence onto the kids. So, so I really love that. And how are the families? How are the parents, especially in these communities that have not had these resources available to them? Before we talked about some of the economically disadvantaged and people of color communities? How are they responding to having this? 

 

 

Teresa  Drew  

I really feel like just in general, the family family stakeholder group has been fairly disenfranchised from the education system as a whole over time. So what we're able to do with the moonshot is help that helps educators. And so for us, it's after school space, think through how do we incorporate families as a partner with us in the programming and really, that's like the first step to developing a culturally responsive program that brings everybody together is that you're working with the community stakeholders, you're engaging the families directly, as you're designing the program that's going to be serving their their child. And you're also able to during that process, you're learning about what would work and meet the needs of the family and the young person. But you're also educating and empowering that family to become an advocate, a cheerleader, a broker, a champion of that young person. And those are those are things that I think a lot of families don't see themselves maybe as even qualified. So if you are a family and nobody in your family went to college, and you have never met anyone who's a scientist, or a computer scientist, especially, let's say, they've never even I don't know who's a coder, they've never met a coder in their lives. They're working two, three jobs, and they don't see a path for their young, their child to become a computer scientist. So for that family to be able to say to that young person, you know what, you can do this, We know, because, again, research has told us that encouragement is like a number one factor in a young person's persistence on a stem journey, especially for girls, and especially for youth of color. 

 

Vanessa Alava 

To have those champions at a young age is so so important. So yeah, and that just carries through into your career

 

Teresa Drew

For sure. It's so it's so important and and it's really it's really like a young girl and having her dad maybe who, you know, a lot of dads historically maybe don't see their their girls pursuing stem because they've never seen that either. So that's like, really powerful voice have dads say to a daughter, you can do this. Mm hmm. It's exciting. Yeah.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Absolutely. Well, Sue, I would love to hear more about Teresa's own career journey. Unless you have more questions regarding the program.

 

Sue Robinson  

Nope. I would love to learn how you got into the space.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Which is funny because I know that you're, you're so humble. You know Teresa's just traditionally every time we've spoken to her, you know, I'm not a tech person. I'm not a tech person, but you're doing so many amazing things in tech and I just think that your stories it unique because it shows that you need every type of personality and and way of thinking to achieve what you're achieving. 

 

Teresa Drew

I started out as a young kid growing up in the mountains, rural, not a lot of opportunity definitely did not have anybody who was in any STEM field in my, in my family. First person, you know, in my immediate family to go to college, I went to community college and, and was going to be an environmental biologist. That was like my dream what I wanted to do, and I could not get through chemistry. And it was intimidating. There was no one who said you could do this. The teachers weren't saying it. I didn't have anybody in my family who was saying that there were no role models, no mentors, there was nothing want want. That's it. It's done. And I didn't, I couldn't I couldn't get past it. So I'm not an environmental biologist. But I did become a teacher. So I decided to switch and went into education because I really like learning, even though I couldn't get past chemistry. Well, what I know now is I actually probably could have gotten past chemistry, chemistry. If I had somebody who said, she said this, it's gonna be hard work. But yes, you can do it. Well, now I know that, but I didn't know it then. So I went into my career as a teacher and I kept thinking what is this like magic that we can give to young people that's going to help them want to continue learning and be excited about the world and want to continue solving problems and exploring. And I think actually, STEM learning is kind of a magical, it's could be a magical hook. It's exciting, it gives you the opportunity to explore, create, blow things up, put things together, and play, and it's fun. And you know, and you have a path to economic prosperity doing it. And then I thought, Oh, my gosh, the out of school space, it's, again, it's this space where there are a lot of kids, and they could be doing a lot of really fun stuff. And to me, it was sort of like this moment where everything came together. And I thought I want to be in that space. And I think we can actually make a difference for young people here.

We're able to do that. drew out of school and after school programs, and with really fun, exciting content partners, and just bringing opportunities that kids have the opportunity to see, see the potential in themselves and then become it. I love that.

 

Sue Robinson  

And you know, two things. One is, I totally relate to on chemistry that I still have PTSD from high school history that was killer for me, too. I know. And you know, we talked about this a lot on our show. Why are we still teaching so many of the subjects that are hard or, you know, maybe more dry? Why are we still teaching them the way we did 30 40-50 years ago, right, when we have all these new tools, and to your point, Theresa, I feel like STEM needs a rebrand because it is hands on it is creative, it is blowing things up, or preventing things from blowing up and understanding how to do that. And, and it is such an interesting and can be such a fun area where creative minds are needed, which is the A the art sort of component, STEM and STEAM. So yeah, I just think that we have to keep reminding people stem isn't just this, this hard, like the the super brainy person who sits in the back row and is has their nose buried in a chemistry book all the time. It's for creative minds. And it's for people who want to be hands on and who want to solve problems in new creative, innovative, ingenious ways. 

 

 

Vanessa Alava  

 

I couldn't agree with you more, we've had a whole episode about rebranding the stem instead, Oh, my God. And I feel like you know, you are doing that you are doing that one child at a time and one program at a time in different cities around the nation. And I am so excited for it. And I think that to Sue's point, when kids get in there and get messy and can can learn through failure, failure has been such a bad word for so long. And if we could just use that as an opportunity to say, this work. This didn't let me try that again. But let's try this instead. And just make something better because of the failures that you that you're documenting along the way. That's exciting. 

 

Sue Robinson  

We just learned another way not to do something.

 

Teresa Drew

 

Right, exactly. And the end, we have like a really unique, there's a unique moment in time right now, especially after, you know, coming out of the pandemic, or let's hope we're coming out of it. But, you know, what we have seen shift is that the education system, the in school and out of school system just had to completely do a pivot. And we're seeing a new kind of relationship between the in school, you know, education system and the out of school system, and they're working together in a much different way. And it's really exciting for someone like me to be able to see because there's opportunity with the federal government funding that goes to the state level funding that's going to school districts and communities to support learning across the spaces, so that's in school, out of school, before school, after school, summer, all of those, they're, they're working together now. And it's really exciting. And I think to the extent we can, you know, lift up that after-school space as a as a viable learning space that we know excites, engages and prepares inspires young people to dive into those subjects that in school, we need them to be focused on because they are hard, they require some grit and persistence. And they have to they hear they're gonna have to take algebra to be able to pursue you know, computer science if they're going into college. 

 

Sue Robinson

I think you know, the time that you have to pivot is the time when you can be the most innovative and new things are born out of those times. So I certainly hope that that's the case here. Ready for a lightning round?

 

Vanessa Alava  

 

Teresa Drew

Okay, I'm ready. 

 

Vanessa Alava

Alright, let me move on to just a few questions, okay. like to ask our guests to get to know them on a on a more personal note, some of them are really, really fun, and others are just, you know, kind of in line of what the what we've been talking about all along. So the first one is, how do you define success? 

 

Teresa Drew

 

I would love to have more girls go confidently into their future feeling that they can discover, innovate, create, explore, and be a contributor, that would be Success to me. 

 

Sue Robinson  

What are three pieces of advice that you would give your younger self?

 

Teresa Drew  

Okay, I would say well, one, I would say stick out that darn chemistry. Chemistry is gonna be in there. Yes, I would say you could do that. Just Just do it, you could do it. Um, I would say travel more I really love to explore. And I would explore all over more places all over the world if I could earlier. And I would, I would go backpacking. And I will tell you why. I started doing backpacking older as an older adult now. And I have done a lot of different exercises. And over the over the years. And I love it because you can only get to some of the most amazing places in the world if you walk there. And he seen a picture it just it's not enough. And you know, he can't fly there. He can't run there. You can't ride a bike there. You can only walk to some of these places. And it is amazing. And it opens your eyes to how amazing the world is how small we are in the universe. And it's just such a cool elemental type of experience. That's what I would tell myself.

 

Sue Robinson  

I just took a trip out west with my daughter and exactly what you're saying, Teresa, we were in New Mexico, and Colorado. And I mean, some of those places. You're right, you'd have to you just have to hit the trail with your water bottle in your backpack. And that's the only way you'll get to see places but they're so incredible and they're so quiet and the majesty of nature. It's just, it's just a reset for your whole perspective. So I love that. Absolutely.

 

Vanessa Alava  

All right, fun one. What celebrity would you cast to play you in a movie?

 

Teresa Drew  

I have no idea. I have never once thought of that. I really like Gwyneth Paltrow. Could we pick we pick her she's cool. I am. And I like her. I like her skincare line and she's kind of bad. I know. She's interesting to me. Maybe her?

 

Sue Robinson  

Good choice. All right. Describe the future in one word.

 

Teresa Drew  

untapped potential. Yeah.

 

Vanessa What myths about women in STEM inseam. Would you like to dispel?

 

Teresa  Drew

I think it would be that I You can have a career, and you can be a mother and stem. Hmm.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Amen to that. Mm hmm.

 

Sue Robinson  

Alrighty. Last one, fill in the blank, blank, like a girl.

 

 

Teresa Drew 

oh, this is a really hard one to guys, you guys have good questions? Um, do we have to pick one thing? I mean, can't I just say everything like a girl, I mean, yes. Everything, there's, I can't think of one thing that only a girl should be able to do or that we would have to do. I don't want to, I would, I would say I want to say everything I'm gonna put out there. I think a woman can do anything she sets her mind to. And it's our job to make sure that she has all the tools, the training, the access to it.

 

Vanessa Alava  

I love it. Thank you so much for your time. Again, we've been so excited to have you on for a long time, I'm so happy that we finally got a chance to talk and document it and to share it with the world. So yeah,

 

 

Teresa Drew 

Thank you. And thank you for sharing our stories. It's really exciting to be part of a group of women and tech. So I'm excited to talk with you both. Thank you so much.