Our Commitment to Closing the STEM Gender Gap
February 11, 2021, is recognized as International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The theme for the sixth annual worldwide event, Beyond the Borders: Equality in Science for Society, is a philanthropic focus for Waters year-round – as we continually seek opportunities to support the educational journey and advancement of the next generation of STEM professionals.
We recently partnered with the Ron Burton Training Village (RBTV) on their 2020 STEM Journey for Girls initiative, enabling girls in grades 5-12 to solve real-world STEM-based challenges alongside Waters scientists and technologists. We’re excited to continue this hands-on research and capstone project program with RBTV to provide STEM opportunities to young women.
A shared focus on STEM education for long-term success
Founded in 1985 by All-Ohio, All-American, and NFL running back Ron Burton, Sr., the RBTV works to enrich the lives of challenged youth. The RBTV has helped more than 9,000 underserved young men and women; and provided access and mentorship in areas including social skills, leadership, and education.
When Waters first engaged with RBTV, we intended to support the educational component of their Purpose and Leadership Journey flagship program.
The Purpose and Leadership Journey
- Follows primarily economically disadvantaged and at-risk youth over a seven-year period
- Includes an intensive five-week training camp during the summer months
- Works to enable participants’ long-term success through guidance, support, and mentorship
Our support of this program included charitable donations and employee volunteer opportunities related to the RBTV STEM Journey, where Waters scientists and technologists contributed their time and expertise in educational advancement programming, including through hands-on classroom presentations and demonstrations.
Phil Burton, RBTV Vice President of Programming and Personnel, shared:
The partnership between Waters and RBTV is incredibly fruitful. Not only do Waters’ employees expose students to scientific and technical career opportunities, they also get the chance to cultivate long-term relationships as they guide our young men and women on various projects through a seven-year journey. It is our belief that this continuous nurturing and exploration will foster healthy pipelines for young people of color to pursue careers in various STEM fields.
Each experience challenges our young men and women to think, stretch and focus. It is a safe space for them to experience both failure and victory, which are critical components for growth.
Expanding the impact of our support to help close the STEM gender gap
As RBTV looked to expand and accelerate its programs and scope in education, we recognized that not only were we in a position to assist but also that RBTV’s goal and mission were aligned to our educational philanthropic purpose.
Thus, the discussions with RBTV began with an eye toward addressing the current STEM gender gap – and, more specifically, around the lack of opportunities for young women of color in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. Waters has committed to initial funding for the development of the STEM Journey for Girls and to providing science-based volunteers to coach and mentor the participating students.
During our first experience with the RBTV STEM Journey for Girls, the program focused on the food ecosystem (seed to farm to table). Waters female scientists and technologists worked virtually with 60 students in grades 5-12 to understand the concepts of scientific discovery within the context of separation science and specialty measurement.
Here are just a few of the lessons that resonated with the program participants:
“I learned that chromatography is important in keeping the food we eat safe. I also learned it is important to trust in yourself, and it’s okay to try new things that are out of your comfort zone.”
“Science is in the forefront of everything that we do and first-hand experiences like the one we had with Waters Corporation show how impactful their work is.”
“One important thing I learned was that we need more food than we have needed in the past 50 years because of the exponential growth in the human population. The experience also has me thinking about all the different places our daily food can come from and what they contain.”
Likewise, Waters employee volunteers found tremendous value and fulfillment in the experience.
Hannah Roland, Waters QA Supervisor:
The STEM experience with the girls at the Ron Burton Training Village has been exhilarating and rewarding … The girls have been curious and motivated to learn. I look forward to more opportunities to share my expertise and experiences with young women involved in the program.
Jennifer Fournier, Waters Director of Chemistry Product Marketing
Being a part of a team of Waters women who share a similar vision of inspiring young girls is so rewarding … And seeing such a broad age range of girls participate bodes well for sustained enthusiasm as the program moves forward.
A vision for a future of equality in science for young women
Together, Waters and RBTV have embarked on a journey to play an integral role in the ideation, creation, and implementation of new and exciting STEM capstone initiatives for girls. We are committed to providing STEM education, experience, and opportunities to young women, and to paying it forward for the next generation of STEM professionals.