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Hundreds of girls from across the Upstate were encouraged Tuesday to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math by women who’ve found success in those fields.
The Southern Automotive Women’s Forum and Clemson University partnered with Duncan-based Draxlmaier to host the ninth All Girls Auto Know event. Along with a plant tour, students were guided through engineering exercises by guest speakers and met with representatives from Clemson, Spartanburg Community College and Michelin to learn more about STEM careers and the education needed to qualify for them.
“It’s about bringing in more girls so they hopefully don’t have to go through some of the things we did in our career,” said Cherie McCain, a BMW Manufacturing Co. employee who was one of the lead presenters.
McCain said many more women are needed in scientific fields across the country.
The National Science Board found that while women accounted for more than half of bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences, they received far fewer degrees in computer sciences, engineering and math.
Nationwide, women made up 17.5 percent of civil and architectural engineers; 17.1 percent of industrial engineers; 10.7 percent of electrical or computer hardware engineers; and only 7.9 percent of mechanical engineers, the Science Board found.
Ericka Davis is one of the women who has succeeded in automotive engineering.
Davis is the first female plant manager in Draxlmaier history. The Draxlmaier Group’s Duncan plant manufactures interior systems and plastic components for automakers, primarily in the U.S. The company is a BMW Manufacturing supplier.
“I had a lot of choices I made that got me here today,” Davis told the group of about 300 students from Spartanburg, Cherokee, Union and Greenville counties.
Jemeria Foster, a Jonesville Middle student, said she enjoyed hearing about the women’s achievements in STEM fields.
“It inspires younger people like us to to do some of the same things they have,” she said.
During each session, groups of students used tape, paper and rubber bands to build a freestanding structure strong enough to hold a brick.
Diane DeHart, a Lockhart Middle teacher, said when she was a child, teaching and nursing were considered the main career options for women.
Now, the girls she teaches can go on to do anything men can do, she said.
“If we don’t let them know (a STEM career is) an option before high school, it may be too late,” McCain said. “If you open their eyes here, they realize they’ve got what it takes to do these kinds of things.”
The event encouraged girls to look into all scientific fields, but automotive jobs were a particular focus of presenters.
Brianna Hughi, an eighth-grade student at Jonesville Middle School, said she felt empowered by the event.
“Automotives isn’t just a man’s job,” she said. “That’s my takeaway from today.”