Girls in 4-H more likely to choose science

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click image to zoom The National 4-H Council recently announced its partnership with the Million Women Mentors (MWM) initiative. The initiative, unveiled at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., will support the engagement of one million science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) mentors—male and female—to increase the interest and confidence of girls and young women to pursue and succeed in STEM degrees and careers.

National 4-H Council joined more than 40 other youth-serving organizations in the MWM initiative. The partnership announcement comes just as a recent longitudinal study conducted by Tufts University, The Positive Development of Youth: Comprehensive Findings from the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, revealed that 4-H girls are two times more likely (Grade 10) and nearly three times more likely (Grade 12) to take part in science programs compared to girls in other out-of-school time activities.

“As the largest youth development organization in the United States, 4-H develops high-quality, positive youth development programs that show mentoring works,” said Jennifer Sirangelo, National 4-H Council President & CEO. “4-H prepares program leaders and youth as mentors with a deliberate focus on pairing strong women mentors with girls to help guide their future career paths. We are thrilled to join forces with STEMconnector and the Million Women Mentors initiative as our combined efforts will help reach the goal of engaging more than one million girls in STEM.”  

In the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs has been three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs. Today, 80 percent of the fastest growing occupations in the United States depend on mastery of mathematics and knowledge and skills in hard sciences. While women comprise 48 percent of the U.S. workforce, just 24 percent are in STEM fields, a statistic that has held constant for nearly the last decade. While 75 percent of all college students are women and students of color, they represent only 45 percent of STEM degrees earned each year. Too many of these young women begin in STEM degrees but leave those degree paths despite their good academic standing, often citing uncomfortable classroom experiences and a  disconcerting climate. Even when women earn a STEM degree, they are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM field even though STEM jobs pay more and have a lower wage gap: 92 cents on a dollar versus 75 cents in other fields.

“I’ve had 4-H mentors who have helped shape me and guide the choices I’ve made both personally and professionally, and those life-long relationships continue to empower me today,” said Andrea Vessel, National 4-H Council Youth Trustee. “The Million Women Mentors initiative is an amazing effort which will allow girls to experience similar guidance along with long-term career benefits as a result of this partnership.”

National 4-H Council provides STEM and mentoring programs across the United States in partnership with more than 100 universities. With funding provided by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the 4-H National Mentoring Program features replication of the following three Programs of Distinction recognized for strengthening, expanding and implementing youth mentoring activities nationwide to improve the lives of millions of young Americans. 

4-H Mentoring: Youth & Families with Promise, created by Utah State University;

4-H Tech Wizards, created by Oregon State University; and

4-H Life, created by the University of Missouri. 

This week, January 6-9, National 4-H Council is hosting its annual 4-H National Mentoring Program Implementation Training for 190 4-H program staff representing 46 states and the District of Columbia who will then select from the three proven effective 4-H youth mentoring programs to implement in their local communities.

In 2012, the 4-H National Mentoring Program served over 8,000 youth, resulting in significant outcomes in areas such as family relationships and perception of social support and social competence. Nearly 3,000 mentors participated with their matched mentees, a 1:4 mentoring ratio through this program. The program has also been successful for mentors, securing an 80 percent mentor retention rate.

Million Women Mentors is a collective effort of more than 40 non-profit, media, education and government industry partners and nine corporate sponsors. To become involved with 4-H or Million Women Mentors, visit www.4-H.org and www.MillionWomenMentors.org.


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