SEMINOLE – Nearly 30 professional women from throughout Pinellas County and around 100 Seminole Middle School students attended the school’s second annual Women in STEM breakfast March 22.
Michael McCullough, the STEM instructor at SMS, invited female professionals in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — to meet with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade girls who are in the school’s STEM program or are taking advance science courses.
“A lot of our girls don’t know that STEM is available to them,” he said. “I’m trying to open up the door and show them there are all of these career options for them.”
The women who attended the event represented a variety of careers, he added.
“I had everyone from a landscape architect all the way to a lady designing the GPS for the [Lockheed P-3 Orion],” he said.
In small groups, the girls had the chance to sit with several of the women to ask about their career paths.
“Basically, we wanted them to ask questions and have a conversation,” McCullough said.
Erin Lawson, a senior transportation/roadway engineer for Pinellas County Public Works, said events like these are important for teenage girls.
“I really enjoy it. I love getting out and talking to girls and showing them there are women in these male-dominated industries,” she said.
Debbie Fulton, who works in accounting at Pinellas County Utilities, agreed.
“I think you need to show them that the opportunities are out there and to encourage them to stay with the [STEM] program,” she said.
She added, “At age 13, 14, they don’t see the future. The future to them is next month, going to the prom or dance or whatever. They’re not thinking about the opportunities that they have. We want to at least open their minds, even if they might not think it’s important now.”
Seventh-grader Mihaela Villarreal, 13, said she enjoyed not only meeting women working in various STEM fields but also to have the opportunity to ask them about how they chose their careers.
“We got to ask them questions about how college compares to middle school, how different it is and how hands-on it is, and how what we study would relate to jobs we might get,” she said.
It was inspiring to meet women in these fields, added seventh-grader Deema Shahin, 13.
“I liked getting their perspective on women and men getting STEM careers,” she said. “We learned from them that women make STEM careers better and we need to be accepted more because we can do the same jobs men can.”