CARRBORO, N.C. — Despite making up nearly half of the American workforce, women are still vastly underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries.
What You Need To Know
- Women are severely underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries, according to U.S. census data
- Rida Bayraktar leads an organization called Pink STREAM that educates young girls about these fields
- Through grant funding, Bayraktar is able to offer free robotics classes to refugee girls
According to the latest Census data, women only make up 27% of STEM workers. Rida Bayraktar wants to inspire girls at a young age to pursue careers in these fields.
“I didn’t have a lot of exposure, early exposure in the STEM concepts because I was playing with dolls, Barbies, kitchen toys, those kinds of things,” Bayraktar said. “That made me unaware of robots, space, those kinds of concepts were always taught as boys’ stuff.”
Her childhood experience is what motivated her to start her organization in 2018. Through grant funding, Bayraktar is able to offer free educational workshops to the refugees.
“Girls using robotics kits will program some robots to work in our setup space and solve some challenges using that,” Bayraktar said. “This will both grow their algorithm skills and coding skills.”
When Bayraktar moved from Turkey to North Carolina, she joined the robotics team in high school. Even though she was the only girl on the team, she says it gave her a sense of community, which is what she hopes for her students.
Her goal is to continue providing free workshops to girls who are unable to access STEM classes like hers. For Bayraktar, the students fuel her drive.
“They’re always excited,” Bayraktar said. “And that gives me a lot of passion in life and makes me keep going and working for this mission.”
While the STEM field is dominated by men, Bayraktar, a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has plans to be a computer scientist after she graduates.
“Introducing them to STEM concepts, building a community where they feel welcome, find people who are like each other,” Bayraktar said of her hopes. “I think it’s significant. Them at a early age to feel this inclusiveness and attachment to this place.”