Women in TVA Help Teach Girls About STEM

The explosion in the popularity of handheld devices and other technologies is phenomenal; yet, few American girls are gaining expertise in science, technology, engineering and math—STEM—fields.

According to a recent story in The Atlantic, even with more gender equality there are fewer female students who are electing to pursue STEM-related careers—only 27 percent of all students taking the AP Computer Science exam in the U.S. are female and just 18 percent of American computer-science college degrees are earned by women.

TVA recognizes the importance of preparing the next generation of students at all educational levels, particularly female students, for future career opportunities at TVA and businesses throughout the Valley.

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In fact, several TVA employees are actively helping to increase the number of female students who may wish to choose a STEM-related career.

Civil Projects senior project manager Karen Officer-Bell and Enterprise Project Management office senior program manager Tracy Hightower are helping girls and young women through their support of the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy (CGLA).

“The exacting college-prep education at CGLA focuses on STEM and the arts,” says Officer-Bell. “The curriculum helps give the students self-confidence, inspires leadership, encourages critical thinking and promotes academic excellence.”

Hightower added that their goal is to “provide the access students will need to succeed in college and as leaders in their communities and the world.”

Mechanical and Civil Design Engineering program manager Kendra Ware, who recently was elected as the TVA Nuclear Fleet chair for Women in Nuclear (WIN), is leading efforts to engage young women to consider a career in nuclear power. U.S. Women in Nuclear is a network of more than 8,000 women and men who work in nuclear- and radiation-related fields around the country. Ware said the industry needs the fresh new ideas that a more diverse workforce provides. “By truly embracing diversity, we are not leaving one person or group behind,” she says. “We’re giving everyone—no matter their religious preference, gender or lifestyle—a voice at the table.”

Other TVA employees—Kenyatta Adams, Sue Collins, Rachel Crickmar, Janice Horn, Stacey Parrott, Amy Tate and Jacinda Woodward, to name a few—from across the Valley also help support STEM programs, including the Madisonville Community College Girls in Engineering and Technology program, which serves approximately 600 sixth-grade girls in Hopkins and Muhlenberg counties in Kentucky; and Girls Inc., which equips girls to navigate gender, economic and social barriers, and grow up healthy, educated and independent.

Young people should be prepared to think deeply and to think well,” says Llisa Prater, TVA’s Diversity and Inclusion program manager. “Our goal in supporting young female students is to help them have opportunities to become the innovators, educators, researchers and leaders of tomorrow who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our company, our industry, our nation and our world.”