The national AAUW presents the EYH conference across the country each year. The AAUW has 1,300 branches and more than 100,000 members. The organization promotes equity for all women and girls, lifelong education and positive societal change. More details are at www.aauw-wa.org.
A group of 500 high school girls learned “the sky’s the limit” at this year’s Expand Your Horizons conference at Bellevue Community College.
The annual conference, now in its 26th year, was presented by the Lake Washington branch of the American Association of University Women.
The all day conference, which focused on math, science and technology, featured Dr. Yoky Matsuoka, a UW researcher in Robotics and Neurology. Her slide show presentation gave a brief overview of her work in developing prosthetic limbs.
“It’s important to pursue opportunities that aren’t normally encouraged for girls,” Dr. Matsuoka said. “By pursuing engineering, I learned tools in college that I not only use in my career but also to solve everyday problems.”
Other presenters were from companies including Alfresco Garden Design, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Federal Aviation Administration, King County Metro, Microsoft, Boeing, The Seattle Aquarium and Virginia Mason Medical Center. In all, employees from 38 companies volunteered their time to present at the conference.
The conference incorporates hour-long workshops that cover topics including hands-on ecology, crime lab fingerprinting, web use, space travel and dermatology. Prior to the conference the girls select three workshops to attend throughout the day.
Yvette Namath, a software test engineer for Google had the students attempt to break down the way a search engine works by using the example of the book “Green Eggs and Ham”.
“I volunteered to come do this conference because I used to be a teacher and I love working with kids,” said Namath. “Seeing even one girl get really excited about technology is an awesome thing.”
Seattle Police officers Dorothy Kim, Chris Lang and Krista Bair led a workshop called “An Arresting Career.” During the hands-on workshop, they outlined a day in the life of a female police officer and involved the girls in role-playing and discussion.
“Being a police officer is a very empowering job where you have to make quick decisions, utilize resources and develop really good people skills,” explained Kim. “We want young girls to have the exposure to career opportunities that will help them build confidence in their abilities.”
Over in the crime lab workshop called “CSI and Fingerprinting,” lantent print examiners Geraldeen Chavez and Kelli Banks set up a mock crime scene and explained the steps and procedures they would take if it was a real life scenario. Banks explained why she wanted to assist in a workshop for young girls.
“It’s important to show these girls that there’s a world of opportunities out there for them and if they work for it they can pursue anything they want.”
During their presentation, Geraldeen and Banks answered questions about day-to-day tasks, their sometimes erratic work schedule and their salary pay.
Volunteers acted as guides and helped answer questions. Fran Anderson, a member of the AAUW, has volunteered at the annual conference for 20 years. In fact, many of the women volunteers who helped organize and run the conference were past students who had attended the conference in high school and middle school.
Alice Enevoldsen, a past conference attendee, now works for the Pacific Science Center as an enrichment coordinator and planetarian.
“I remember one of my science teachers specifically asking me if I would like to attend the EYH conference when I was in junior high,” Enevoldsen explained. “The conference was my first experience with graphical internet. This was a long time ago of course, but back then search engines were just first coming out and we were given the opportunity to explore the web. The community college that hosted the conference had a huge computer lab that let all the girls have access to a computer. It was great.”
Enevoldsen has returned to lead a workshop called “Kerjillions of Stars” where she takes the girls through a voyage of the solar system through photographs, spectra, astronomy and math. She hopes that conferences like the EYH will show girls that there’s a world of opportunity out there.
“Kids are usually inspired to go into careers where the people working look like them. They think, ‘oh she looks like me I think I could do that.’”
Lindsay Larin can be reached at email@example.com or 425-453-4602.