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  • Writer's pictureDonna Milgram

Myth: Middle Schools are the Best Place to Recruit Women to STEM


Female and male STEM Students
2-year Colleges: She's Not Your Target Audience

Two weeks ago I attended and presented at the National Conference for Principal Investigators who have National Science Foundation Advanced Technology Education grants. Career Pathways of grantees range from Cybersecurity to Electrical Vehicle Technology to Mechatronics.


Shocking / Not Shocking


As I walked around during the Poster Sessions, I saw multiple 2-year colleges with photos of only male students.


So I asked them the natural question – Do they have any female students?


I was dismayed by the answer! Several told me they have only one or two, and offered a shocking / not shocking reason. It was this: They said the problem is we need to get to these girls in middle school – it’s too late by the time they’re college age.


That’s a totally false urban myth that’s rampant in higher education, especially in the 2-year college space.


Good News


We have 15 Case Studies on our Website that describe how these 2-year Colleges moved the needle in a year or less on enrollment and retention of female students.


As a bonus, these same strategies improved male enrollment and retention at the same time.


Want to see the proof? Here’s a link to 10 of the most recent case studies for you to review.


Guess what all 15 of those case studies have in common …


Not even one of those schools focused their recruitment efforts on middle school girls. In fact, they didn’t focus on secondary schools at all. They focused on prospective female students who could enroll the next semester.


The average age of community college students in the United States is 28. If you are focusing on high school students you are missing the majority of students who are enrolled in your college.


Where to find women interested in enrolling in your STEM and CTE Programs


Before the WomenTech Training Bootcamp even begins, during the Orientation, I help you work with and identify your best target audience to recruit female students from.


Your best target audience varies by Career Pathway as well as the opportunities in your school and local community.


Because schools attend in teams of key stakeholders, I’m able to call upon the wisdom of the group as I ask you targeted questions to help uncover your quickest path to enrolling female students in your program.


In some cases I’ve been able to help colleges that struggled for years to succeed in as little as 1 month.


It’s always about having the right recruitment strategies.


It’s never about starting in middle school.


Want proven, expert help reaching your goals for female recruitment?


My training schedule for 2024 is filling fast. If you want more women in your classes in Fall 2024, make a time to talk with me now so I can help you reach your goals.


I have only a few remaining calendar openings in November to discuss how your school can move the needle in 2024.


It’s not too late!


"We recruited 9 new women to Welding in only 4 weeks after participating in a WomenTech Educators Bootcamp.

Before the training, if we had 3 women in Welding it was like hitting a home run. I tried some things like offering a Welding art class, but the women that came were not interested in our program. It was very frustrating; I realize now I didn’t have a plan." It was the decisive work plan we developed as a team with Donna’s facilitation during the training that I believe made the biggest difference. Our plan included recruitment strategies that I would never have thought of myself. These strategies worked because they were so specific. The training made us look at everything differently, especially how the existing program brochures and other materials all featured men, and nothing featured any women. [...] Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, you might as well go with something that has already worked for other schools—I believe that made the biggest difference for us. Otherwise, we could have gotten ten people together and sat in a room, but I am not sure we would have come out with the same outcomes or the same strategies that we did.”

~ Sue Silverstein, Welding Instructor, Milwaukee Area Technical College, WI brought a team to a Bootcamp in summer 2018

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