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Wanted: More Female Scientists, Engineers and Mathematicians

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pittsburgh – Women hold more than half the jobs in the United States – but less than 25 percent of the jobs in science or technology-related fields, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

What’s more, while women make up a majority of undergraduate students at universities nationwide, only about 38 percent of undergraduate degrees in science, technology, mathematics and engineering are awarded to women.

To address this problem, Robert Morris University launched the Expanding Your Horizons Conference, now in its fifth year, for middle and high school girls. The event takes place this year from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at RMU’s Moon Township campus.

“Students attending the conference participate in exciting hands-on activities led by women role models in these careers,” said Monica VanDieren, associate professor of mathematics at RMU and one of the conference’s founders.

The conference is for girls in grades six through nine who are interested in exploring careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It features workshops and demonstrations by RMU faculty as well as representatives of the Pittsburgh Zoo, the Carnegie Science Center, and the RMU chapter of Society of Women Engineers.

“It is important for young girls to see that women can lead a successful professional life in traditionally male-dominated fields while at the same time embracing an active personal and family life,” VanDieren said.

VanDieren will lead the workshop: “Keeping Secrets,” about the mathematics behind cryptography and making and breaking codes. Other workshops include the Carnegie Science Center’s Adventure Station, Perfume Science, Pittsburgh Zoo’s endangered species, and a presentation by the Society of Women Engineers.

Expanding Your Horizons is organized by RMU’s School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, which is engaged in a number of outreach activities to local K-12 schools. The conference is supported by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and Southwestern Pennsylvania Engineering Outreach.

Parents or students who want to learn more about the conference should contact Sarah Kerin at 412-397-6331.

Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is a private, four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. An estimated 22,000 alumni live and work in western Pennsylvania.