Girl with microscopeWhat’s the best way to teach kids to wash their hands to prevent the spread of disease? Show them how fast germs can spread using chemicals and a black light.

How can you get girls interested in math? Ask them to budget for a water filtration project to provide clean water for communities.

These are just two simple examples of how Actua, an innovative national organization, helps girls to discover exciting careers in STEM (science, engineering, technology, and math).

“We know young girls are really interested in science,” says Jennifer Flanagan, CEO of Actua. “But that interest can start to wane if it’s not supported.”

Actua has 33 member organizations that partner with universities to offer workshops, clubs, and summer camps. Each year, these groups reach 225,000 youth in 500 communities across Canada. “We want to reach as many girls as possible,” says Flanagan.

They also want to reach parents. According to Flanagan, too many parents still don’t encourage their daughters to pursue STEM careers. The national average enrollment of women in engineering and computer science programs is under 20%.

“When girls do science, they discover they can make a significant contribution to the world they live in,” says Flanagan. “They build their own resilience and economic independence. It’s really about empowerment.”

Funding from the Canadian Women’s Foundation builds Actua’s capacity to support its member organizations through training, networking, and research. 

This article was originally published in the Fall 2014 edition of SHE magazine.

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