Hundreds of high school girls carve career paths at EMU STEM event

While her family encourages her love for science, technology, engineering, and math, 16-year-old Reem Alawn still has doubts sometimes.

"In my background, in my cultural background, women aren’t exactly known to go into any field," she said. "They are mostly to stay at home."

However, when Alwan heard about Eastern Michigan University's Digital Divas high school conference, she knew she has to participate. 

For 13 years, EMU's Digital Divas series of programs have been introducing middle and high school girls to STEM through hands-on workshops.

"I decided this might be an awesome opportunity – just get to know the different fields that I could be going into," Alwan said.

About 600 girls participated in the conference on Friday – which featured workshops in coding, aviation, and construction.

"It’s a great engagement program. We’re focusing this program, again, on underprivileged, underserved communities," said Dr. Mohamad Qatu, the dean of the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology. "But we’re also focusing, with Digital Divas, on female students because we'd like to attract more and more female students into STEM fields."

EMU alumna and Software Engineer at Promess, Stephanie Price, returned to campus to share her knowledge with the Digital Divas participants. She coached them on how to make a candy selector machine.

"The first time I joined my team as a software engineer, I was the only female software engineer at the time," Price said.

A’Staria Perry, another participant, said the event showed her that a future in STEM is possible for her.

"I’ve learned how to connect circuits and make sounds from circuits, which is really awesome, I loved learning that," Perry said. "I actually felt very comfortable continuing even if I made a mistake or not."

Although Digital Divas encourages young women to pursue careers in STEM, EMU also hosts an annual Digital Dudes program to get young men involved too. The 2023 Digital Dudes high school conference will take place on EMU's campus on Friday, Nov. 10.

"There might be some things that you’re interested in and you're afraid to pursue, but it’s okay to look into these things because, in the end, it might be for you," Alwan said. "And you’re going to regret the moment that you said no."

For more on Digital Divas, click here.

For more on Digital Dudes, click here.