Texas Instruments initiative helps Girl Scouts see STEM careers in their future
Marking the 100th year since the organizations founding, Girl Scouts has declared 2012 the Year of the Girl. In an initiative that focuses on the future for girls, Texas Instruments recently partnered with Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas (GSNETX) to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills to local Girl Scouts.
This year, Texas Instruments sponsored and helped launch the first ever “engineering patch” for girls in kindergarten through 12th grade. The patch curriculum focuses on exciting, engaging and encouraging girls at every grade level to explore STEM education and careers. The patch will be available to all 35,000 Girl Scouts in Northeast Texas and will be a part of the program for the 4,400 underserved girls who experience Girl Scouts through the “Gift of Girl Scouting.”
“A Girl Scouts’ study found that girls’ interest in STEM is higher when they have exposure to those fields and only 46 percent of those surveyed knew a woman in a STEM career,” said Trisha Cunningham, Texas Instruments chief citizenship officer. “That’s why we partnered with Girl Scouts to develop a program where girls can have fun learning more about STEM and we can encourage area women engineers to get involved as role models.”
Through this programming, younger Girl Scouts will experience STEM through hands-on projects, and older Girl Scouts will be introduced to career choices and, most importantly, mentors in STEM careers. Texas Instruments is eager to generate excitement about the possibilities offered by STEM in hope that these girls will someday choose engineering as a career, a field that continues to be underrepresented by women.
Cunningham answered a few questions about the program. You can read more about this program on Texas Instruments’ Citizenship website.
What departments at Texas Instruments were involved in establishing the partnership with the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas?
“This initiative was initiated through our Corporate Citizenship group. We tightened our philanthropic focus around science and math education and began meeting with organizations such as the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas a few years ago to see if there were ways we could work together. They were very receptive as they were in the process of developing their own strategy in this area.”
How was senior management “buy-in” procured to promote STEM skills to local Girl Scouts?
“From the top of our company on down, TI’s management knows that strong science and math education of our youth will be important not only to our company’s future U.S. workforce, but also America’s competitiveness in this age of technology. We are particularly interested in developing girls and underrepresented minorities in engineering. Today, only one in five engineers is female — below parity with other prestigious professions.”
Are Texas Instruments employees involved in any aspect of this initiative? With the “engineering patch” program?
“We asked some of our passionate women leaders and engineers to help. When we started to explore our focus on STEM with Girl Scouts, they helped serve on their strategy committee for the program. This resulted in TI sponsoring a STEM strategy workshop that included many in our area who were interested in advancing STEM education with girls and that was also attended by Girl Scouts USA. One of the outcomes of this strategy session was the development of this patch and curriculum, which our employees helped create.”
What have been some of Texas Instrument’s best practices or lessons learned in pursuing this initiative?
“First, we learned that when you focus on a strategic area, it is important to talk with your community partners and listen to their ideas. We transitioned to our philanthropic focus on STEM over a period of a few years so that it did not come as a surprise to our community partners. We’ve continued to work with those where we could align our interests, like Girl Scouts, to develop programs that are even stronger than our past investments. Secondly, we learned to never underestimate the results you can obtain with passionate employee volunteers — ask, give them a challenge and let them work their magic. We love our employee volunteers! Many of the skills they use on the job everyday are of great value to the community partners we work with. When you combine that skill with their passion around a cause, you have a winning combination. Thirdly, you must be willing to adapt along the way. Since this is a new program, it won’t be perfect so we are willing to adapt. Our goal is that other Girl Scout Councils would want to offer the badge to their girls as well.”
Is the success of this initiative measurable?
“Yes. We will know how many girls have completed the requirements to receive the patch. One of the great things is that no matter what level Girl Scout you are, there is age-level curriculum and activities so that interest can be maintained throughout all years of the scouting experience. As an incentive, Girl Scouts is giving the patch for free in return for a copy of their completed ‘workbook’ and feedback. This is a great way to continually improve the program.”
What kinds of feedback have you received from employees?
“Kim Smith (at left with Scouts), operations manager for Internet marketing for TI and head of the TI Women’s Network who was one of the key TI employee volunteers for this program, said: ‘Math and science is in everything you do. I don’t think that you even know what is possible out there as a young woman growing up. It’s important to show girls that they can be anything they want. And when girls succeed, so does society. We need more girls in these areas. We want girls to have fun learning STEM, and it is fun changing the world and people’s lives and their mindset.’”