New club empowers female students to pursue STEM careers

Evelina Gaivoronskaia | Staff Writer

 After noticing a lack of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), Mason High School junior Marissa Riehm decided she was going to do something about it. She chose to create a club that allows young women to explore their STEM interests. 

The young women of MHS have a variety of STEM courses available to them– many of these courses are even taught by women. On the national scale, however, there is still only a small percentage of women who occupy professions in STEM-related fields. 

According to the 2019 United States Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), women make up 26.7% of total STEM-related occupations. Riehm decided it was time to see this number grow, so she teamed up with a Mason teacher to offer a club that would allow young women to find a comfortable place to learn more about STEM opportunities. 

Even though she is passionate about STEM, Riehm did not always feel confident pursuing her STEM-related interests. Riehm said she has always been interested in career paths like science and business where women are in the minority. As she developed a greater desire to pursue the sciences, she noticed that girls often lacked the confidence to speak up in class. It was almost as if the young women felt as if they had to acquiesce to the young men in the class. That’s when she decided to take action. 

Armed with the desire to create a space for women to pursue their interests without fear, Riehm teamed up with high school geometry teacher Diana Stroud to create the Women in STEM club: a club that would empower women by exposing them to a variety of STEM careers. 

As a high school student, Stroud felt that she was never really exposed to opportunities in STEM. While she loves teaching mathematics, she did not know of “anything else” she could pursue as a STEM career when she was younger. Now, she views the opportunity to mentor young women as a chance to provide them with more information about opportunities and jobs that exist in STEM. 

The club held its first meeting on March 25. It didn’t take junior Kirsten Stubenrauch long to figure out she wanted to be one of the club’s newest members. Stubenrauch said she plans to go into a STEM field in the future and she believes empowering young women is essential for future change. 

Stubenrauch is eager to help the club grow, but she is also excited to meet other girls at MHS who are interested in learning more about STEM. She would like to help create a strong sense of community and be a valuable resource for the young women interested in STEM. 

Freshman Jodie Topich has been interested in STEM since she was a young girl. She felt like opportunities for girls to learn more about science were limited. When she noticed there was a group that had similar interests she immediately felt the need to learn more. Topich has attended summer camps and at times felt discouraged because of her gender, but now she hopes this MHS club will help her embrace her love of science. 

The club, which plans to meet bi-weekly, will feature mentorship, career exploration, and guest speakers from women in a variety of STEM fields. An upcoming speaker will be a chemical engineer from a completely female-owned company. By highlighting women in key STEM leadership positions, Riehm hopes to encourage club members to believe in themselves after meeting women who can serve as role models. 

Even though the club is just getting started, Riehm has plans for the club’s future. She would like to organize a workshop at Mason Middle School to introduce middle school girls to opportunities in STEM. 

Stroud is encouraged by the young women who have helped get this club off the ground. She has hopes that these young women will not be afraid to fail or be discouraged from pursuing their science and engineering interests. She believes that many young girls have a strong desire to be perfect but as with any scientific endeavor there’s a trial and error period and she hopes young women will not be disheartened from pursuing STEM for fear of failure because she believes that they will “learn so much more from when [they] fail than you do when [they] just get it right the first time.” 

Graphic by Rachel Cai