October 15, 2012 AT 12:00 am

Science is a girl thing

Adafruit 592

Science is a girl thing @ StarTribune.

As a kid, I always wanted to know how things worked. I was fortunate to grow up in a household where inquisitive thinking was encouraged and where projects that resulted in a big mess were considered just part of the learning process. My childhood helped me understand that the messes we make can lead to great things and gave me confidence to become an engineer and find work in a technical field.

I work at Flint Hills Resources, the region’s leading producer of transportation fuels such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other products. Science is at the core of what we do every day. We use it to develop cleaner-burning fuels and to meet growing energy needs while reducing emissions.

My company, like many others around the nation, is always looking for skilled engineers and other technical experts who have a background in science. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to find qualified individuals and harder yet to find qualified women applicants for many areas. This is unfortunate, because America needs innovative women and men to be able to solve the complex problems of modern society.

Nationally, women represent about half of the workforce, but only 24 percent of the workers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields are women. There are also fewer women than men seeking undergraduate STEM degrees.

Women make up just 21 percent of the students enrolled in the college of science and engineering at the University of Minnesota. If women don’t become interested in STEM fields, they are left unqualified for a growing segment of the job market.

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