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Why are Utah women far behind men in STEM education, jobs?
Study » The trend to discourage girls from choosing those areas starts in school.

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Mentoring, especially from other women, seems to be important in getting and keeping women in STEM.

"I myself had to be remediated in math," said George. Her first semester, the teacher wrote on the board, "You can learn to do math." Though George didn’t buy it at first, by the end of the semester she had adopted that mentality and "changed my academic career."

At a glance

New guides for Utah’s STEM education

This week, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) announced Jeffery Nelson, president and CEO of Nelson Laboratories, will serve as the chairman of the board for the state’s new STEM Action Center. The center will use its $5 million appropriation for 2013 to build the math skills of sixth, seventh and eighth graders and increase college math readiness.

The other board members are:

Bert VanderHeiden, vice president of Aerospace Structures, ATK

Blair Carruth, assistant commissioner for academic affairs, Utah System of Higher Education

Brad Rencher, senior vice president and general manger, Adobe

Christine Kearl, deputy for education, Office of the Governor

Gene Levinzon, managing director, Goldman Sachs

C. Mark Openshaw, State Board of Education

Martell Menlove, superintendent, State Board of Education

Robert Brems, president, Utah College of Applied Technology

Stan Lockhart, government affairs manager, IM Flash Technologies

Spencer P. Eccles, executive director, GOED, STEM Vice Chair

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George went on to earn a doctorate from the University of Connecticut and found an international scientific consulting firm before becoming the state’s science adviser.

Communicating that science is a creative career that can be nurturing and make a difference also seems to help.

"I think most people I’ve talked to say they like to see a benefit to society," said Amanda Bordelon, an assistant professor of civil engineering at the U.

She studies concrete, a speciality she compares to baking — with the added benefit of occasional opportunities to blow things up. "I’m used to ... [being] one of the only girls in classes," said Bordelon, who studied at the University of Illinois before coming to Utah. And at the U., her department has five women on the faculty, more than in Illinois.


Twitter: @lwhitehurst

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