There are a few labels I will wear proudly, and “nerd” is one of them. Tonight I am headed to a local restaurant called Science Club for a Pi Day celebration – an activity that I would say lands pretty high on the list of “10 ways to tell you’re a nerd.” I’m going to this Pi Day celebration to meet up with my fellow high school alumni from the Texas Academy of Math and Science (TAMS) that have found themselves living in the DC region.
TAMS is a residential math and science intensive school that is publicly funded and available to any Texas high school student for their junior and senior years. The program is housed at the University of North Texas, where students complete college coursework taught by university faculty. I hold this program near and dear to my heart, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been a part of such a great school.
I see programs like TAMS as a fantastic way to encourage girls to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies. In 2012, women made up just 5.5% of mechanical engineers, 8.8% of electrical engineers, and 13% of civil engineers. The picture is slightly better in chemical engineering and environmental sciences, with women making up 22.3% and 28.9% of those occupations respectively, but still nowhere near equal representation. The need for more women in STEM professions is huge. Women in STEM jobs earn 33% more than those in non-STEM occupations and experience a smaller wage gap relative to men. Programs like TAMS have the opportunity to spark a love for STEM from a young age.
That is not to say that all girls who attend a program like TAMS will choose to pursue engineering or careers as scientists. I am a good example of such a person who chose a different path, but the experience was still invaluable to me. TAMS allowed me and other young girls like me a safe space to proudly proclaim, “I’m a nerd!” and hear it echoed by our peers. I was able to foster a love for math that has pushed me to teach a weekly math class to adult learners pursuing their GED (at Women’s Foundation Grantee Partner Academy of Hope), and more than anything, it has made me a strong advocate for greater access to STEM programs and jobs for girls and women, something I joyfully get to do in my current role with The Women’s Foundation.
Happy Pi Day to all my fellow nerds out there!
 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Women in the Labor Force: A Databook, 2012