March 3, 2014

San Mateo, CA - Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo/Redwood City) hosted a conference for high school girls on the Facebook Campus in Menlo Park on Saturday, March 1, 2014.The event “Young Women CAN!” was designed to teach the students about Science, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, empowering communication and financial planning. Speakers included NASA Astronomer Natalie Batalha and Menlo Park City Council Member Kirsten Keith. More than 150 students and parents attended the event.

According to a 2009 report by the National Science Foundation, women earn 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees, but only 12 percent of computer science degrees.

“This century is about STEM jobs,” Speier said. “Young women must recognize where opportunities exist for their futures. Today, we ignited enthusiasm in them for STEM careers.”

Dr. Natalie Batalha is a research astronomer in the Space Science Division of NASA Ames Research Center and a member of the Kepler Mission. Last week, the Kepler telescope discovered 715 new planets orbiting 205 stars. Batalha discovered her passion for science when she was a sophomore in college. The high school students were mesmerized by her presentation in which she called herself a planet hunter and star dust. She closed the event with her favorite quote from Rui Borges: “One Day, from the shores of a new world, we’ll gaze at the sea that took us there. And its waves will be stars.”

Students had the opportunity to attend one of three workshops. “STEM Inspired “was filled beyond capacity with 70 students who learned some coding.

During the event, Speier asked students to post selfies on social media sites with the hashtag #youngwomenCAN. You can find results and photos from the event here, here and here.

You can watch a short video of Congresswoman Speier during the event here. You can watch the video of the complete remarks by Councilmember Kirsten Keith, Congresswoman Speier and Dr. Batalha here.

Speier also announced the first Congressional STEM Competition in which high school students from her district can design their own app. The winner or winning team will have a chance to present their app to judges, community leaders and the Congresswoman at an award ceremony. The winning app will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Details about the App Contest can be found on Speier’s website.