STEM Woman Leader of the Day- Judy Vredenburgh (Girls Inc.)
Submitted by Tommy Cornelis on December 4, 2012
Judy Vredenburgh brings lifelong passion for supporting girls and young women to her role as President and CEO of Girls Inc., the nonprofit organization that inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through life-changing programs and experiences. At Girls Inc., Judy is leading a charge for growth, including expansion of programming that helps girls discover an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. Previously, she was President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and CEO of Chess King, a division of Melville Corporation.
Why do you believe STEM Education and Workforce are important to our nation?
Nearly all of the thirty fastest-growing occupations in the next decade require at least some STEM knowledge, but girls and women continue to lag in these fields, particularly “hard” sciences like physics, computer science, and engineering. Women of color are even less likely to enter these careers. It is particularly important to reach out to women and girls to ensure we are maximizing our collective potential. That’s why at Girls Inc. we grow girls’ skills and confidence in areas, including STEM, with research-based, hands-on activities and mentoring relationships in a positive, all-girl environment.
What can we do to assure more women leaders in STEM?
Support programs in and out of school that expose girls to STEM as a possibility for their futures. From day one, give girls safe spaces to problem solve.
Educate girls about the gaps that exist and infuse the self-reliance to be successful. Lastly, find diverse women role models who make STEM come alive and demonstrate that scientists have full, interesting careers and lives.
Who is your STEM role model and why?
One of our alumni: Bianca Bailey. Bianca grew up in Dallas raised by a single father. At Girls Inc. she was introduced to engineering and met women scientists. She was one of only a few African-American girls in her science-focused high school and was often teased. Girls Inc. was her haven, encouraging her to keep going.
In May, Bianca graduated from Howard University with a degree in Chemical Engineering. She was campus President of Engineering Without Borders and traveled to Kenya and Sudan. She mentors girls in STEM at our Washington, DC affiliate. In 2011, the White House honored Bianca for her leadership in encouraging girls in STEM.
Bianca is headed to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to get her Masters in Environmental Engineering. She plans on pursuing a Ph.D. and working in international development. Every time I hear an update from her, I am inspired to make certain every girl has the opportunity to discover her passion and the skills and support she needs to succeed in any field.
Of what one initiative you are most proud?
Girls Inc. Eureka!® engages girls ages 12 to 18 in exploring STEM with the long-term goal of inspiring them to pursue post-secondary education and careers in these fields. This multi-year effort combines interactive programs, personal development activities, and sports with an intensive experience on a college campus and STEM internships. We are currently working to expand this incredible program in scope and reach to give more girls this critical exposure to STEM, college, and the workplace.
How is your organization innovating to promote STEM?
At Girls Inc. we are providing experiential learning opportunities for girls who would never otherwise have access to them. Our work is enhanced by our many corporate partners who contribute funding, expertise, and employees’ time. We are collaborating locally, regionally, and nationally with companies to bring more high quality STEM programs and experiences to girls and we are always seeking to increase capacity to reach even more girls.