Level Up: Increasing the number of women in STEM careers through mentorship

Women are getting into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – also known as STEM careers.

Right now the four highest-paid female CEOs in Fortune 500 all lead Technology companies.

It’s happening, but not fast enough for a group of female African-American scientists in Memphis.

They want the LevelUP to begin in grade school and they’re working to raise the bar and level the playing field.

Dr. Shana Stoddard is Asst. Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at Rhodes College. Dr. Davita Watkins is Asst. Professor of Organic Chemistry at Ole Miss. Dr. Loretta Jackson-Hayes is the Chemistry Chair at Rhodes College. And Kamesha Adams teaches Organic Chemistry at LeMoyne Owen College and is considering a Ph.D.

Their research could unlock the key to stopping the growth of an enzyme that feeds glioma cancer, one of the deadliest brain tumors that you can get.

They want more women scientists helping and they are ready to lead the battle for the increase and take the most effective step to help recruit - by becoming mentors.

"You can find young people who have talent, who have drive, who have opportunity but may not be able to navigate the realm. Because the realm we live in especially for women is still a boys club,” said Dr. Watkins.

Females hold only 4.2% of Ph.D.'s in Chemistry.

Dr. Stoddard was mentored by Dr. Loretta Jackson-Hayes.

"I asked her to be my mentor,” Stoddard said.

"Most of the time when people say that, they are not serious,” Hayes explained.

“That next day, I sent her a handwritten next day express letter and she said yes.” Stoddard continued.

"She seriously held me accountable for mentoring her, ” said Hayes.

There is plenty of room and open positions for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math job positions.

Rhodes is already holding sessions for girls and women interested in STEM careers.

When Adams was at Lemoyne, she says she and classmates got on a bus to visit and inspire elementary students.

"We performed small science experiments and it really got them interested,” Adams said.

Adams is now considering getting her Ph.D.

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