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.
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