Seattle Science Festival: A Chance to Inspire Girls and Women into STEM Classes and Careers

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(Skip to the chase: download the Seattle Science Festival program, which incudes a detailed map of the Seattle Center grounds with the location of each exhibitor and performance stages as well as a schedule.)

Astronaut Sunita Williams on the International Space Station (from

Having had the wonderful experience of becoming a pilot and certified flight instructor at age 50, I am an enthusiast for encouraging girls and women to excel in challenging fields. And I’m so glad to see how much times have changed since I was one of only a handful of women in my law school graduating class in 1976: Now women make up half of every law school class.

Women have achieved much over the past decades, yet we have more work to do, particularly in the fields of math and science. Women comprise nearly half of America’s workforce, but only 1 in 4 of jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM jobs) are held by women, and only 11% of our engineers are women.

Publications like Science Daily report on the difficulty of recruiting and retaining women in the sciences, and even the Department of Commerce asks where the women are.

We must encourage girls and women

As a society, we can do more to encourage, support, mentor, and lead girls into challenging STEM fields of study and careers whenever we can. As a City, I believe we should set a goal that 50% of graduates this decade  will be girls and women who excel in science, technology, engineering and math.

We parents, extended families, teachers, counselors, coaches and more are the ones who will make a difference. We must guide our young women to study – and LOVE – math and science from their youngest days. We’re missing the boat if we don’t.

What scientists look like: 2011 Graduates of the UW's Making Connections program

My dream is that girls and young women know in their hearts from the moment they start to learn that they can become one of the Boeing engineers who designs the next generation of spacecraft. That they can contribute to meeting our society’s biggest challenges: developing new fuels so we aren’t dependent on fossil fuels; saving women and children globally from premature pregnancy and deaths; designing new technologies to harness wind, solar and more to conserve and generate power. Just for starters.

Our own region is a recognized international leader in the technologies of emerging medical cures, space exploration, software design, and environmental research to mention just a few. These industries are calling now for smart and prepared workers. We can’t afford not to have women in STEM careers.

STEM is Enticing!

Girls in goggles: From the Women in Science and Technology Program at Boston College

In June, Seattle Center is hosting our City’s first annual Seattle Science Festival. Here’s an opportunity to introduce your girls and their friends (there are activities for kids under 7!) and young women to how exciting and rewarding sciences can be.

On Science EXPO day, June 2, you can bring students of all ages (both genders welcome!) to the Boeing Flight Simulator and let them try their hands at flying a 787 Dreamliner. Or encourage them to join the Project Splash team to create, program and drive LEGO underwater robots that can rescue people and help protect our oceans.

With more than 150 family-friendly, hands-on experiments, exhibits, demonstrations, interactive activities, games and live performances, chances are good that you can find a match for your aspiring scientist. Even if you weren’t attracted to math and science, giving your student encouragement and an opportunity to see how cool this can be may open their eyes to possibilities.

Here are some of the details:

Isolating a bacteriophage (Image:

  • Science EXPO Day, a free event at Seattle Center on June 2.
  • Science Festival Week with inspiring special events happening all over the region. Programs include behind-the-scenes tours, a Science Under Sail adventure with Salish Sea Expeditions, a South Lake Union Science Trek, a free Computer Programming Symposium for high school students, screenings of science-themed films, and many, many other events!
  • Science Luminaries Series, today’s most brilliant minds (including astronaut Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, national security expert Deborah Gracio, computer game designer Kim Swift) and inspiring thinkers sharing the stage with breathtaking performances by world-class artists for five exclusive evening events in June. Topics to be tackled include cyber security, the future of genomics, the next generation of space exploration, computer games, and mitigating the world’s leading cause of disease.

I firmly believe that the most important things we can give to our children are opportunities and support to build self confidence. When our

At the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (Photo: CIMMYT)

children learn that they can succeed at anything – and have our support to try and keep trying – they put their minds to doing it. I also believe that as a City, we can encourage and support our girls and young women to enroll and succeed at STEM classes. We need their hearts and minds. I call upon all of us: Let’s see that the 50% of the graduating classes in this decade include young women who choose to study and work in science, technology, engineering and math.

See the Seattle Science Festival’s calendar of events or download the Seattle Science Festival program (4 MB PDF) that incudes a detailed map of the Seattle Center grounds with the location of each exhibitor and performance stages as well as a schedule.

Visit the UW’s Making Connections website for information on the program’s mission, which is to increase college enrollment and career exploration in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields for underrepresented youth.