The Business Services team at Silicon Valley Community Foundation hosted A Global Crisis: Girls’ Access to Education on April 29. The second in a three-part series of learning activities focused on education, the session featured a panel of brilliant women whose professional and personal lives intersect at the heart of the topic.
Eleanor Clement Class, chief giving officer at the community foundation, opened the event with a personal statement.
“I remember being in southside Chicago and one day, my parents asked me to come into the kitchen to talk. I must’ve been in 5th grade then, and I was a really good student. I was the oldest of four kids in our family. I wanted to be a lawyer, and then President. My father said he had something really important to tell me. He said, “I really hope we’re going to be able to send you and your sister to college, but I’m not sure we’ll be able. It’s really important that the boys go to college. They’re going to be the providers for their families, and I just want you to know that’s why they’re going to be going to college. And then we’ll see what happens later.”
She set the stage for the panel discussion, which would tackle gender disparities in primary and secondary education, barriers to enrollment, and the cause and effects of women’s underrepresentation in STEM careers.
The panelists were adamant that having this conversation is a game-changer. Talking to our daughters and sons about stereotypes and providing opportunities for girls to understand how technology plays a role in our everyday lives are useful tools in increasing girls’ access to STEM education.
Dr. Wendy Holforty, an aerospace engineer at NASA Ames Research Center moderated the dynamic panel.
“Who has a sister? Who has a mother, an aunt?” Dory Gannes, partnerships officer at United Nations Foundation, posed these questions in an effort to show why the topic is relevant for all, not just women and girls. The importance of including men and boys in the dialogue is underscored by the reality that the root causes of these issues may include child marriage laws, discrimination and poverty.
Dr. Linda Kekelis, executive director of TechBridge Girls, promoted ways in which companies can get involved in the issue of girls and STEM. She described how the Girl Scouts’ STEM programming has seen success in promoting appreciation of STEM fields and careers. Linda also noted that technology companies can be instrumental in providing role models or hosting career fairs for area youth.
Dr. Erin Murphy-Graham provided both an academic and programming voice, noting that access does not necessarily equal quality. Although the number of youth in primary schools has grown significantly in the past ten years, reports have shown that many girls have not acquired basic literacy skills even still.
The panelists also touched upon the recent reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, the network premiere of Girl Rising on CNN (June 16), and how the Common Core State Standards will allow for greater connection between STEM fields and the liberal arts.
The Business Services team is pleased to announce India: Perspectives on Education and Engagement, the final session in its series of interactive learning opportunities focused on education, to be held June 25.
The Indian education system is the second largest in the world after the U.S. This session will provide insight into the landscape of education in India, and address the successes and challenges surrounding the 2009 Right to Education Act as well as explore how companies can have an impact and engage their employees.