Getting Girls into STEM – the Power of a Positive Role Model

Lockheed Martin Canada employees are passionate about STEM, and many of them spend a significant amount of time volunteering in schools and supporting local programs designed to encourage interest in those fields.

Ellen Macintyre, a Software Engineering Manager at Lockheed Martin Canada’s Halifax/Dartmouth office is a great example of this passion and commitment. Ellen volunteers with Techsploration, a Nova Scotia not-for-profit organization, which aims to increase the number of women working in STEM fields.

Ellen Macintyre
Ellen Macintyre speaks at the Techsploration Annual Launch event in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Ms. Macintyre has been a Techsploration role model for the past two years. She mentors a group of local young women who have demonstrated an interest in technology and science.

As a manager in a technology-based company, I need a deep and diverse labour pool from which to draw employment candidates. Lockheed Martin (like so many other companies) strives for equal representation of all walks of life; yet our employee base hovers at around 15 per cent female. We simply cannot find enough women with the required education or practical experience in engineering, math or computer science,” says Ms. Macintyre. “As a woman, I want to see other women embrace whatever opportunity they are passionate about.”

“As a woman, I want to see other women embrace whatever opportunity they are passionate about.” - Ellen Macintyre

At the beginning of a school year, participating schools form their Techsploration teams. Each team is assigned a role model, and the team’s task is to learn about that role model and her career. They challenge their role model with questions about the education needed to get to where she is, what she most likes and dislikes about her career, what a typical day looks like for her, and more.

The students create a presentation, in the form of a skit, based on what they have learned. The skit is performed at the students’ high school with the aim of spreading interest in STEM fields and providing valuable presentation skills to the participants. The next step is attending a divisional conference where each school delivers their presentations and perform their skits a second time, but to a larger audience.

Students also attend a series of workshops at the divisional conference, hosted by more Techsploration role models. The workshops focus on developing key competencies like workplace etiquette and communication skills. “If the young women attend every event they’re eligible for,” adds Macintyre, “By the time they graduate they’ll have met and engaged with more than 120 role models currently working in STEM related fields!”

Ms. Macintyre believes that the program is fulfilling for both the role models and the female students being introduced to STEM fields. “I learn as much from them as they do from me. It has been a really rewarding experience.”