Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

TigerLily STEM: Increasing the number of women with STEM jobs

TigerLily STEM

When Meredith Smith was a freshman at Iowa State University, she introduced herself to someone saying she was a chemical engineer major.

He responded with, “Well you don’t look like an engineer.”

Today, Smith works as a project engineer for General Mills.

“I don’t think it is any secret to anyone that women are sparsely underrepresented in STEM fields,” Smith said. “I think even when companies do a really good job to recruit women, you still see that.”

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Women in STEM: 2017 Update report, 24 percent of women hold jobs in STEM fields and 14 percent of engineers are women.

Smith hopes to change these statistics.

Taking action

Recently, Smith launched her own company to help inspire girls to get involved in STEM.

TigerLily STEM is a company that empowers young women through STEM classes, tutoring, mentoring and leadership development.

“We are really trying to improve the statistics, one personalized interaction at a time,” Smith said.

Smith said that mentorship and tutoring is vital to TigerLily STEM because role models are necessary to help women continue in STEM.

“For these girls, if they can see someone succeeding in STEM who looks like them and they relate to, they can say ‘Oh I can do this,’” Smith said.  

TigerLily STEM launched less than a year ago, but recently signed a lease for a space in West Glen Town Center. Since November, they have been holding STEM classes in a Panera community room.

The goal of the STEM classes is to help provide exposure to STEM through creative activities.

“There is a misconception with a lot of people that STEM subjects aren’t as creative and collaborative,” Smith said. “Sometimes that is what dissuades girls from getting into STEM. But these classes show girls that STEM is inherently creative and collaborative. To have the experience early on is really important.”

Beyond that, Smith hopes these classes offer support beyond the tutoring and mentorship that TigerLily STEM provides.

“These classes are about creating a community of girls who are excited about STEM who can support and encourage each other on their journey,” Smith said. “… It can be really isolating if you don’t have a community of women that you connect with, and affects your decision to enter the STEM field.”

Smith and her husband set-up the LLC last April and started piloting classes last summer. Today, they partner alongside schools, as well as offering their classes and tutoring services.

Smith said for now, they are entirely self-funded.

To learn more about TigerLily STEM visit here

Jess Lynk is a contributor to Clay & Milk

TigerLily STEM: Increasing the number of women with STEM jobs | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now