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Encouraging Women to Enter STEM

Encouraging Women to Enter STEM Fields

Tyco Sponsors Program for High School Students

AFSA Associate Member Tyco Fire Protection Products believes in supporting diversity and generating awareness about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers to young women. With its Women in Technology (WIT) program, it hopes to fulfill these students’ passion and potential. Established in 2002 at its Westminster, Massachusetts facility, WIT is a collaborative program that combines academic course work with practical hands-on knowledge to prepare young women for careers in the field of engineering, technology and business. The goal of the WIT program is to inspire, educate and encourage young women to break through barriers and advance opportunities in STEM and the arts. The program expanded in 2014 to include its Cranston, Rhode Island location.

Melissa Loureiro, manager of physics and modeling, started the program in Cranston with the help of the rest of the program managers and is the program lead. “As I started with Tyco three years ago, I wanted to find a way to connect back to the local community while improving the balance of female to male engineers within the engineering field. We tailored the WIT program to work for us. The program was started to support a goal of diversity within our own workforce and to make young women aware of the opportunities that exist within the STEM fields.”

“This year we have five high schools participating and 16 girls working on projects at the research and development (R&D) facility,” she comments. “We supply real projects and tools, and the girls figure out how to accomplish the tasks. Tyco engineers and technicians volunteer to be mentors and walk the girls through the problem-solving process.”

In addition to learning practical engineering skills, the students also practice presentation skills, interviewing, and resumé building. At the end of the program year, students present the results of their projects and the lessons they’ve learned to an audience of local community leaders, college and high school administrators, Tyco employees and mentors, teachers and facilitators, as well as family and friends. All participants receive a certificate of achievement and some are selected to receive a scholarship to help with college education expenses.

Year-end evaluations show that the girls enjoy the program and their experience. “At the end of the year, we always survey the girls about what they liked best,” says Gina Munson, engineering project coordinator, who is one of the program managers. “The #1 answer is ‘Learning to solder!’”

The program continues to grow, each year attracting more high schools and more students. “Last year I was challenged by our chief technology officer to grow this initiative to the rest of the Tyco Fire Protection Products engineering offices,” remembers Loureiro. “The program is now running at four additional sites: Marinette, Wisconsin; Cork, Ireland; Brossard, Canada; and Sundbury, England. All programs are running strong and we are working on bringing this program throughout the rest of Johnson Controls International [JCI] eventually. We want to build a community of future leaders who move women in technology forward.”

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