Play Like a Girl Hosts Leading Women in Science and Tech

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Hannah Pike

615-601-1864 | [email protected]

PLAY LIKE A GIRL HOSTS LEADING WOMEN IN SCIENCE AND TECH AT STEM SUMMIT THIS WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

Play Like a Girl connects middle school girls to women in STEM careers through STEM+ Saturday makerspace labs, lunchtime mentoring in Metro Schools and hands-on experiences

NASHVILLE, Feb. 24, 2020 -- Nashville-based nonprofit Play Like a Girl® will host #GirlsRockSTEM, it’s 10th Annual Summit to educate and empower middle school girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through mentoring and hands-on experiences. Mentors and speakers include leading women scientists like bat conservationist Kristen Lear who will be featured in #IfThenSheCan – The Exhibit, a new monumental exhibit of the most women statues ever assembled in one location, at one time. This first-of-its-kind, life-sized 3D printed statue exhibit celebrating the contributions of more than 120 AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors, contemporary female STEM professionals and role models from a variety of industries, is set to debut in May.

“It is critical that our girls have role models and early, positive experiences in STEM so that they’re able to see the unlimited possibilities available to them,” said Dr. Kimberly Clay, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Play Like a Girl. “Our ability to connect girls with women in a wide range of STEM careers is essential to growing a robust and diverse talent pipeline that will drive meaningful growth in our economy both locally and nationally. And we’re so excited and thankful to have employees from local companies including AllianceBernstein, Amazon and Asurion serve as industry mentors and event volunteers.”

The 2020 STEM+ Summit on March 7 will convene 150 girls and their mothers and teachers from across Greater Nashville. Together with industry mentors, they will explore STEM careers through inspiring talks, hands-on activities and interactive makerspace workshops like coding, robotics, virtual reality and so much more. Chief Meteorologist Danielle Breezy will open the conference and serve as event host throughout the day. Dr. Feyi Aworunse, an optometrist at Nashville General Hospital, will deliver the keynote presentation using a series of optical illusions to engage girls in an exciting and impactful conversation about the power of vision. Also speaking at the event are U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn; Deborah Knoll, Tennessee Director of K-12 Programs & STEM Initiatives; and, Sharonese Henderson, UPS IT Solutions Provider and Board member for the Women in STEM Center at Middle Tennessee State University.

Registration for #GirlsRockSTEM is now open through March 3 for all middle school girls grades 5-8 at www.iplaylikeagirl.org. Registration includes admission to all educational sessions, breakfast, lunch, snacks and dessert as well as a celebratory dance party to commemorate Women’s History Month. Girls will also enjoy a live DJ, LUNAFEST® short films and a screening of CBS’s hot new show Mission Unstoppable, photo booths, sponsor goodies and limited edition #GirlsRockSTEM merchandise on sale at the event. A parent or adult chaperone is required to attend the event with each girl or group of up to 8 girls. Scholarships are available by calling (615) 601-1864. Wells Fargo is event sponsor.

The Play Like a Girl STEM+ Summit will be held at Middle Tennessee State University’s Student Union Center in Murfreesboro. For more information, visit www.iplaylikeagirl.org.

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ABOUT PLAY LIKE A GIRL

Play Like a Girl is a Nashville-based national 501(c)3 charitable organization founded in 2004. Our mission is to ensure that every girl reaches her full potential by providing girls ages 9-13 an opportunity—and in many cases, their only chance—to participate in sport and physical activity. We offer programs and resources designed to transform girls’ motivation into an “I am unstoppable” attitude. It is our goal to help girls everywhere find the courage to do things beyond the field of play that they never thought possible. Ultimately, we seek to harness the natural properties of sport to propel young women into competitive, male-dominated careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We believe that girls given the opportunity to play on a team become women who have the confidence to stand on their own. For more information, visit iplaylikeagirl.org, and join us on social media @iplaylikeagirl.


Meet Kristen: Real-Life Bat Girl

Bat conservationist Kristen Lear has always rooted for the underdog, and bats are one of the biggest underdogs out there. With many misconceptions about bats, Kristen’s mission is to share the importance of these amazing animals and to show everyone just how cool they are!

When Kristen was 12, she knew she wanted to do something to help bats so she built and put up bat houses for her Girl Scout Silver Award project. That first project launched her into a career as a bat conservation scientist, working to protect bat species around the world.

Kristen earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Zoology at Ohio Wesleyan University, and is currently completing her PhD in Integrative Conservation at the University of Georgia. She has led international conservation teams for endangered bats in the US, Australia, and Mexico, and leads local bat house projects in the communities in which she lives. 

Now an American Association for the Advancement of Science If/Then Ambassador and Lifetime Girl Scout, Kristen helps younger Girl Scouts and other community groups build their own bat houses to help bats in their own backyards.

Want to ask Kristen all your batty questions and learn how YOU can contribute to bat conservation? Register for Kristen’s bat house building workshop at #GirlsRockSTEM, the 2020 Play Like a Girl Summit on March 7th. In her workshop, Kristen will teach girls to build bat houses using power tools. The finished bat houses will help provide safe homes for bats in Athens, Georgia as part of the Athens Bat Connection. Kristen is excited to share her passion for bats with summit attendees.

Follow Kristen and her bat adventures on Instagram @batsforlife_kristen and Twitter @BatsForLife.


Play Like a Girl Summit Stage to Feature Danielle Breezy, Bat Conservationist Kristen Lear, a future Astronaut & More!

#GirlsRockSTEM, the 2020 Play Like a Girl Summit is fast approaching and we’ve got yet another reason why you’ll want to grab your tickets sooner than later. Tickets are on sale now! For more info about tickets, speakers and the latest news, visit our Summit page here.

Every year, the Play Like a Girl Summit brings middle school girls face to face with dozens of the most prominent names in business, sports, entertainment and beyond. This year, we’re proud to highlight some of the 125 women STEM Ambassadors, who are the face of a new campaign sponsored by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Play Like a Girl Summit stage will serve as the intersection of education and empowerment, bridging the gap between this generation’s most prominent voices and the next generation of STEM leaders. From Nashville’s own Chief Meteorologist Danielle Breezy and Faith Borden with the National Weather Service, to bat conservationist Kristen Lear and creative Kynisha Ducre of Google, the conversations and workshops set to take place are sure to inspire the next generation of innovators.


Roller derby skater and neuroscientist
Dr. Elizabeth Engler-Chiurazzi will make her Play Like a Girl Summit debut that’s sure to make a lasting impact and energize the crowd.


Optometrist
Dr. Feyi Aworunse will be on hand to inspire girls to visualize unlimited possibilities and bring their futures into focus for 2020 and beyond.

Award-winning software engineer Gracie Ermi, as well as Data Kind’s Chief Program Officer Afua Bruce will each share valuable gems from their remarkable journeys bringing engineering to social impact.

Electrical engineer Aisha Lowery will share the personal ups and downs of her career journey and guide girls to develop their own action plan through interactive “Failure not Fear” workshop exercises.

Disability and design activist Anaiss Arreola and Taylor Richardson, aka Astronaut StarBright, will take to the Play Like a Girl Summit stage for the first time, where they will shed light on a new wave of social and artistic activism anchored by next generation leaders.

Bat conservationist Kristen Lear will be on hand to expand on the work she’s done so far to help develop practical, equitable and meaningful solutions to bat conservation challenges around the world.

Plus, Chief Meteorologist Danielle Breezy will host the daylong conference and expo sponsored by Wells Fargo. The Summit will be streamed live online and will feature girl power music sets by DJ Tera “Jazzy T” Whitfield of 101.1 The Beat.

Additional names to be announced soon.

“This year’s Play Like a Girl Summit will feature a lineup of high-profile guests, electrifying STEM experiences and empowering talks as well as highlight inspiring girls and women who are changing the game across industries. The event will also feature an intimate one-on-one conversation with a future NASA astronaut,” said Research Neuroscientist and tech entrepreneur Elizabeth Ann Stringer who is a member of the Summit Organizing Committee. “Intergenerational programming spanning coding, robotics, aerospace and 3-D printing among other topics will provide the tools to facilitate education and growth through the sharing of real stories from real women in STEM.”  

For a full lineup of this year’s speakers and industry partners, visit www.iplaylikeagirl.org/summit.

 

 


Meet Gracie: Software Engineer Saving Our Planet

Gracie Ermi is a knitter, Seattle Seahawks fan and outdoor enthusiast—but that’s not all. In her professional life, she is a software engineer who builds technology platforms that just might help save our planet. Her work focuses on preserving ocean health and protecting endangered animals like elephants, sharks and killer whales.

Gracie earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Computer Science at Western Washington University, and has worked at Vulcan Inc. in Seattle, Washington for the last two years. Using coding and a technology called machine learning, she builds artificial intelligence programs -- training computers to do the most tedious aspects of conservation work, so that experts can focus on more important elements of their job.

As an American Association for the Advancement of Science If/Then Ambassador, Gracie shares her story as a way to inspire people, especially women and girls, to pursue computer science as an avenue to make a change in their communities and around the world. She wants to emphasize to everyone that coding is not magic; with practice, anyone can learn to do it. Plus, learning to code bursts open a whole world of financially beneficial and socially engaging opportunities.

Gracie is pumped to attend #GirlsRockSTEM, the 2020 Play Like a Girl Summit on March 7th at Middle Tennessee State University. There, she will share how she went from a middle school girl who knew she wanted to make a positive difference in the world (but had absolutely no idea what computer programming was), to a computer scientist working at an organization whose mission statement is, “Make and leave the world a better place.”

In middle school, Gracie would have never predicted she would pursue a future in technology. Now, her coding skills give her the opportunity to work on projects that 13-year-old Gracie would be incredibly inspired by.

Do you care about solving climate change? Getting every dog adopted? Making sure that everyone has enough to eat?

Gracie, alongside her friend and colleague, Afua Bruce (Chief Program Officer at DataKind), will engage with attendees at the Play Like a Girl Summit to reflect on the kind of world they want to live in. Student attendees will be empowered to envision themselves contributing to these causes and more.

Gracie and Afua will show students how gaining technology skills can be a powerful avenue for creating the change you want to see in the world. It is of massive importance that we listen to and encourage the unique and powerful ideas of girls if we want to build a future where every person, animal and plant thrives.

Follow Gracie and her amazing adventures in STEM  on Twitter @gracieermi.


Play Like a Girl presents ‘Potential Realized: A Mission with Impact’

Happy New Year -- 2020!

Turning the page on the past decade coincides with a page turning for Play Like a Girl. To kick off 2020, we are celebrating and telling the stories of girls from our programs, introducing a new(ish) website and expanding our partnerships and programming.

Having recently celebrated 15 years since our founding, we know what each new year represents. This year, in particular, is the culmination of a lot of hard work, strategic decisions and deep commitments. Our 2020 campaign is the result of months spent working to articulate what Play Like a Girl is all about, where we want to go and how we can best serve our girls into the future.

We are determined to focus on our mission and keep the girls we serve at the forefront of everything we do. How? We have laid out our vision for 2020 in two simple yet powerful words: Potential Realized.

For every project we take on — whether it’s summer camp, our annual conference, industry field trips and behind-the-scenes tours, lunchtime mentoring at local schools or social media campaigns — we do it all to help our girls recognize and reach their limitless potential.

Our evolved brand and strategic direction represent this vision. That’s why we decided to focus on the stories of phenomenal young women with “Potential Realized: A Mission with Impact” to kick off the new year. The new campaign conveys the idea of growth, of real progress. Our new website is designed to be a welcoming, informative space. A place for you to learn more about our team, our work and how exactly we’re making good on our promise to champion equality and economic opportunity for all girls. We hope you return often for insights and information. 

Our founder and CEO Dr. Kim and her assistant Hannah pored through applications from past program participants to pick five young women who deserve the spotlight. The resulting profiles tell the stories of young women who have themselves evolved since joining their very first Play Like a Girl program or event.

These young women are middle school students who love sports, young women who fail as often as they succeed because they’ve learned to view failure as necessary. These are stories of young women who are changing the game on and off the field of play. These are young women with crazy dreams about their futures in this big, bold world and crazier beliefs about their abilities to change that big, bold world. These young women are shaping their communities and, in their own way, altering life for every girl everywhere. Theirs are stories which deserve to be told.

Meet all of our Potential Realized honorees--our 2020 student ambassadors. And share their profiles on Twitter with the hashtag #PotentialRealized.

Follow #PotentialRealized on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 


Play Like a Girl Hits the Ice

Play Like a Girl Camp strikes again! This time, our super exciting sports destination was the Ford Ice Center, where we had a seriously chilly and extremely FUN afternoon of ice skating.

We started the day off with an inspiring career panel — seriously, girls, the discussion was filled with major info — where we had a chance to meet six amazing women behind our favorite hockey team, the Nashville Predators, before being treated to our own little pizza party. They do EVERYthing for Smashville. In fact, Rebecca King, Senior Director of Community Relations, was hugely responsible for us being there.

We learned about a variety of careers from communications and social media to creative services and corporate partnerships. Before hearing from them, we really had no idea that we girls could do all of that in a male sport. I won't lie...we were a little shy! So, Dr. Kim and our parents asked all the interesting questions. But I promise we learned a lot.

When asked about failure, the ladies encouraged us girls to embrace failure as fuel to build our confidence and keep playing, learning and growing--both on and off the rink. A few talked about the challenges they face being women in a male-dominated workspace. "Often, I'm the only woman boarding that plane. The only woman in the locker room. At times this season, I've had to remind myself that I'm there because I'm qualified. I'm there because I'm great at my job, and I happen to be a woman," said Natalie Aronson, Corporate Communications Manager, who highlighted the important and unique qualities that women offer in the workplace as well as the critical role that male advocates play in the advancement of women in the sports industry.

Next, we gathered in teams of 3-4 for a quick STEM lesson and reaction time test. Using a yardstick and help from teammates, we learned about the importance of quick reflexes and response time in the job of the "goalie" on a hockey team. As you may know, the goalie's job is to prevent the opposing team from scoring a point by stopping the hockey puck from entering the net. Goalies need to have the ability to react extraordinarily fast when a hockey puck is whizzing towards them at 90 miles per hour, or they'll come up toothless, lol.

Resting our arms in the air, we held our thumbs and index fingers about an inch apart while a teammate held the yardstick so that its bottom end was between our two fingers. Without warning, the teammate holding the yardstick dropped the yardstick. And we closed our fingers to catch the yardstick as quickly as we could, repeating the activity until everyone had a chance at it. After each rotation, we wrote down the number of inches the yardstick fell before we caught it and calculated the average to see who had the quickest reaction time.

We learned that an average person catches the yardstick at around 6 to 8 inches. This is a reaction time of .177 to .204 seconds. That's pretty fast, right? But to match the reaction time of a professional hockey goalie, who needs to stop a puck traveling at 90 mph from 20 feet away, we would have to catch the yardstick at 4.5 inches! A hockey puck traveling at 152 feet per second will travel 20 feet in .152 seconds. That's about 1/10th of a second. It was a fun activity but we'd better keep practicing with our yardsticks if we ever want to become a goalie!

Finally, we laced up our skates and hit the ice. Some of us literally hit the ice. (Kidding! Or am I? I’ll never tell.) With the plexiglass surrounding the rink, the smell of stinky feet from the ice skates, cheers and flashing lights from cameras on the sidelines and the slick, shining ice, we might as well have been in a game at Bridgestone Arena. Oh, and did I mention that Gnash hit the ice with us too?! It was sooooo much fun!

After making several rounds (and several Boomerangs; we can’t help ourselves!), we removed all the layers and took it straight outdoors to the playground. We also replaced some of those calories we’d torched on the ice — our butts were feeling it from all the falls — with ice cream and slurpies after playing with new friends under the hot sun.

We want to say a huge thank you to our partners at the Nashville Predators and Predators Foundation that make fun camp days like this possible and to Ford Ice Center for hosting us at their magical ice rink! If you want to get in on our next super fun STEM and sports camp in September (Trust us, you do. It’s gonna be goooood.), then make sure to subscribe to our email newsletter here or in the footer of any page on our website.


Beyond Innovation

Over 2.8 million STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs are expected to go unfilled this year alone and those filled won't be filled by women. While women continue to make gains across the broader economy, they remain underrepresented in STEM jobs and among STEM degree holders--just like in sports.

Though numbers are growing, only 27% of all students taking the AP Computer Science exam in the United States are female. The gender gap only grows worse from there: Just 18% of American computer-science college degrees go to women. And that's in the U.S., where many college men proudly self-identify as "male feminists" and girls are taught they can be anything they want to be.

Advancing gender parity in the workplace requires that we start early and design programs to tap into the potential of young women to contribute further in this vital sector. Middle school girls in Nashville are learning STEM lessons through the context of sport thanks to our programs at Play Like a Girl. They also are mentored by professionals whose day-to-day work crosses the lines of STEM and sports.

To do this work, we're continually developing our knowledge and partnerships through experiences like Beyond Innovation 2018 which brought together 200 global leaders from across the sports, tech, nonprofit, education, business, entertainment and development landscape, to create innovative cross-sector partnerships that use the global appeal of sport to advance STEM.

Former NASA astronaut and the first woman of color to go into space, Dr. Mae Jemison reminded us that we all have a responsibility to be beneficial to society as we are all connected and have all the answers we need to solve the world's problems. The renowned physician, engineer, social scientist, entrepreneur and educator suggested that “hands on, hearts on, minds on” is “the best way to teach STEM.” And we agree.