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Encouraging Women in STEM Fields

By Marshall Child

Department of Commerce Women in STEM Logo

The Department of Commerce (DOC), in May of 2019, held a meeting to ascertain the level of interest for a DOC group revolving around women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The response was very enthusiastic with over 80 people attending the initial meeting. It wasn’t long before the DOC Women in STEM (WSTEM) group was established.

The mission of DOC WSTEM is to support and facilitate DOC employee connections to address issues of interest to the Department’s women within the STEM fields. The group began by laying a foundation with the goals they wanted to achieve. First, DOC WSTEM seeks to serve as a scientific and professional resource across the bureaus of the DOC and this is accomplished by opening up new channels of communication through the group. The bureaus can discuss and raise awareness of technical and professional-related projects occurring throughout DOC. Second, DOC WSTEM wants to encourage promotion of federal technology transfer as part of the overall DOC mission to drive the American economy. Lastly, DOC WSTEM wants to promote STEM interest and create a culture around the importance of STEM fields for women throughout the bureaus.

DOC WSTEM had some major highlights during 2020 as the group increased its membership. “Lunchtime Tech Talks” was created as a work-day lunch hour-series.  During each session a DOC bureau would host a virtual webinar on a technology related topic. This series provided a platform for the different bureaus to feature topics that they were currently engaged in, and for the other bureaus to see what was occurring across the whole of DOC. This program helped educate and inform the attendees, stimulated collaborative efforts across DOC, and further promoted the tech transfer mission. DOC WSTEM kick-started a LinkedIn page to post monthly professional development resources, such as training and news, opening an outlet to encourage professional growth and awareness in the STEM community. The group developed “Send it On,” in which a message was posted everyday throughout March (women’s’ history month) spotlighting a different woman in STEM to show her journey and accomplishments. DOC WSTEM sought out women who were game changers in the STEM field and who were paving pathways for more women to pursue STEM degrees. The overall goal was to primarily target teachers, students, and parents to motivate and encourage a greater pursuit of STEM careers.

With 2021 came additional milestones within the group. DOC WSTEM established the formation of seven subgroups: Community Connection, Networking, Information Sharing, Mentoring, Recruitment, Equity and Representation, Leadership. The Recruitment subgroup created a membership database that provided the name, location, email address and interests for each member. The Mentoring subgroup matched six mentees with six mentors as a pilot DOC WSTEM mentoring program. The Community Connection subgroup created an open communication channel for members to have discussions at any point in time. Looking at the new fiscal year, DOC WSTEM plans to continue to make an impact for women in STEM and drive-up membership to increase awareness of their message and mission across the DOC bureaus. The group currently has 300 members, but wants to encourage greater attendance to continue to foster a community of cross communication and STEM and tech transfer promotion.

You can contact Robin Bunch at robin.bunch [at] (robin[dot]bunch[at]nist[dot]gov) if you would like to learn more about DOC WSTEM.

Released October 19, 2021, Updated October 27, 2021