You can be cool and you can be smart
You can be cool and you can be smart At left, Kelly Mathews reads "Rosie Revere, Engineer" to her 6-month-old daughter, Marilyn (AP photo / Thinkstock)
You can be cool and you can be smart
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Kelly Mathews is on a mission to get more girls interested in STEM, which is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. For Mathews, it's a mission that begins at home with her 9-month old daughter, Marilyn.

"I want her to look at things and wonder how they tick," Mathews says, "and know that if she looks at something and says, 'Wouldn't it be cool if it could do that?' that she can make it do that."

That's why Mathews reads books like "Rosie Revere, Engineer" to Marilyn and stocks her nursery with other such books, like "HTML for Babies."

Mathews, a software engineer in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, believes the earlier girls are introduced to these fields, the better the chance they will be empowered to pursue those careers when they graduate from high school.

That's a belief that is gaining support in the education and business communities. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates women make up less than 25 percent of the workforce in jobs related to STEM. The acronym was coined by a member of the National Science Foundation in the 1990s.

Mathews has teamed up with TechGirlz, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that aims to bridge the gender gap by teaching middle and high school girls about careers in technology.

As only one of only two female engineers in her company, Mathews feels her message is simple: "You can be cool and you can be smart," and that girls "don't have to choose sides."

Kelly Parisi, spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the USA, says her organization has been working to empower girls in science since its inception, way back in 1913.

At a recent badge activity in Hempstead, New York, Brownies and Juniors made what the volunteer scientists called "flubber", a silly putty-type compound made from glue, Borax, water and food coloring.

Parisi points out, the Girl Scouts offer "over thirty STEM badges in everything from coding to engineering to computer science."

Sean Cohen, chief operating officer at the email marketing firm AWeber, says he believes employers should get more involved in high school programs.

"Create job shadowing programs. Create experiences for young women to get more involved in STEM programs and see that there are careers around that," Cohen says.

Mathews hopes that by starting early, her daughter will know a career in STEM is well within her reach.

"If she wants to, and if she doesn't want to that's great too. I just want her to know what's out there."

Critical thinking challenge: Why might Kelly be more motivated than other women to interest girls in STEM?

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Assigned 22 times

  • NashMcComsey-Ste
    11/20/2014 - 01:27 p.m.

    The title alone is inspiing enough. I have believed this for such a long time, one cannot simply disregard being cool by being smart. I only hope that more people would agree with me.

  • 9RileyM
    11/20/2014 - 05:10 p.m.

    what can we learn from this: The earlier a child is introduced to a certain field they're more likely to continue to pursue it after high school. In jobs related to STEM women make up less than 25% of the jobs. They're hoping to close the gap by teaching middle school and high school girls about the program. Matthews only one of two girl engineers in her company said that you can be cool and smart. Juniors and brownies had created flubber a silly putty like object.

  • 5EmilieT
    11/20/2014 - 06:03 p.m.

    I'm going to do a summary including the 5w's
    Kelly Mathews is perusing getting girls to participate in STEM activities and careers. She starts with her young daughter at home by introducing STEM at a young age which many people believe will have her questioning things and becoming interested in engineering and other careers in STEM. She wants to create awareness to show girls that you can be smart and cool at the same time. Research shows that only 25 percent of women in the world have a job that is associated with STEM. She has teamed up with a non-profit organization in Philadelphia to spread awareness to girls in middle and high school that STEM is actually pretty amazing.

  • 5ReganF
    11/20/2014 - 07:17 p.m.

    Critical thinking: Maybe because Kelly herself is an engineer, and knows about the job situation for women in STEM. Kelly wants her daughter to grow up in a world where women are working in STEM fields all over the place, and proving that women can do a job just as good as men, if not better.

    Lessons to be learned:
    We should care more about STEM than we already do. It's good that STEM is becoming an increasingly popular career choice, but what about women in STEM? Only in the past 100 years, women had finally started gaining rights. That isn't fair, so why should we be turned away from a STEM career when we can do just as well as everyone else? I think that what we can take away from this is the fact that women have rights too. I am so glad that awareness for women in STEM is being raised, and this could be a big step in the right direction. Women should be able to do just as much as men, and we don't give as much thought to that as society should.

  • brandonj-Koc
    11/21/2014 - 10:31 a.m.

    Making the population smarter should be a key focus in most homes today with the STEM program this will help children to get ahead in school and help build their knowledge further.

  • 8koltonme
    11/21/2014 - 01:09 p.m.

    Kelly is a mom and she needs to know some work but she wants to be a cool mom that's why you can be smart and cool.

  • 9kiekhotp
    11/21/2014 - 01:10 p.m.

    Kelly is a mom and she needs a place to work that is cool and smart so kelly can be cool and a good mom.

  • MikaylaStazewski-Ste
    11/21/2014 - 01:31 p.m.

    Nowadays, if you still think it is cool to not participate in school and get your work done, then there is a major issue in maturation. If you notice, as you get older, the kids who are smarter in school are usually the ones more people attempt to surround themselves by.

  • stashab-Bea
    11/21/2014 - 02:40 p.m.

    I feel that you shouldn't determine your "coolness" on whether or not you're smart. Being cool has nothing to do with how much somebody knows. I feel like that is an over-rated reason to socially classify someone.

  • Reecesh-Fre
    11/25/2014 - 01:20 p.m.

    I really don't enjoy doing STEM such as our STEM fair projects.I think it is good that her parent are starting her education at such a young age. A lot of times parents push their kids to do stuff, but these parents let their kids do what they want.

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