Hassan headlines Girls Technology Day

By Nik Beimler nbeimler@seacoastonline.com

DURHAM — Women make up about half of the college-educated workforce in the country, but only about 30 percent of the science and engineering workforce, according to a 2016 study by the National Science Foundation.

That issue was the topic of U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan’s speech to New Hampshire high school girls on Thursday morning in the Paul Creative Arts Center Auditorium at the University of New Hampshire.

“We’re better off when men and women are both in management positions,” said Hassan, D-NH. “Not just for individual women, which is important in itself, but also for the success of any enterprise they enter into.”

About 200 high school girls from across the state gathered to hear Hassan speak and participate in the 2017 Girls Technology Day, which is part of an initiative to engage young women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

In addition to Hassan’s speech, students participated in hands-on STEM-related activities with UNH faculty and students, as well as about 20 industry partners, including representatives from Dell Computers and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

“It’s really heartening to me to see so many girls interested in the STEM fields,” Hassan said. “You will find that if you stick with it, you’re going to have great opportunities moving forward.”

The freshman senator highlighted some employment opportunities close to home, saying that New Hampshire companies are looking to fill hundreds of jobs in science and engineering fields.

“There’s just enormous potential in terms of what jobs and future you want to have,” Hassan said. “But we also need you as citizens to understand this technology and to lead in it so that we can make good decisions about it.”

While she was governor, Hassan formed a STEM Task Force to evaluate, analyze and improve the state’s implementation of STEM education. She touted that and other efforts during Thursday’s gathering.

Students also heard from Abby Kaczera, a senior chemical engineering major at UNH, who interned with Apple in California last summer. Kaczera told the students to stay focused and keep a good work ethic.

Hassan ended her speech with a call to action for the girls in attendance.

“I want you to know how much we need you, not only in the work force but in your communities and in your democracy to lead the way forward,” she said. “We are at a very exciting and a very challenging time in American history and in world history. … You all have the opportunity to pursue STEM not just for your own sake, which is fine. You should. But you have the opportunity to become competent, confident leaders, and we need you.”