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More than cookies and crafts: Jennifer Bartkowski showcases Girl Scouts as a pivotal partner in STEM education


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Korri Kezar, Dallas Business Journal

Jennifer Bartkowski is out to show that the Girl Scouts are more than cookies, crafts and badges.

As CEO of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, part of Bartowski’s job is to oversee science, technology, engineering and math programming for more than 26,000 scouts in 32 counties.

But while providing STEM-based education is important, Bartkowski wants to take those efforts a step further. She wants to fill North Texas’ technology workforce with highly-educated women by getting girls interested in STEM at an early age.

As part of those efforts, the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas in May unveiled the STEM Center of Excellence at Camp Whispering Cedars, a 92-acre campus in south Dallas designed to teach STEM skills to more than 4,000 scouts from kindergarten to 12th grade each year.

The center was constructed thanks to $14 million in contributions from individual, foundation and corporate donors. That shows the North Texas community is invested in the Girl Scouts’ STEM mission, Bartkowski said.

“It’s a very generous community to invest in a project that’s the first of its kind,” she added.

Bartkowski told the Dallas Business Journal more about how she’s advocating for more women in the STEM workforce.

How are you a STEM advocate within the Girl Scouts?

Locally, we’ve built the STEM Center of Excellence. It’s a living laboratory and a showcase for how we’re investing in how girls learn and lead best in STEM. We know women are underrepresented in STEM careers, and we want to change that by getting girls excited about STEM at a young age and in a way that they may not experience in school or other places. That center has become a model for Girl Scouts nationwide, and they’re planning build additional centers based on what we’re doing in Northeast Dallas.

How do you advocate outside of the organization?

I spend a lot of time speaking to the community and educating them about the situations and underrepresentation women face in STEM. I also talk about how girls learn and lead best and talk to the (community) about helping girls have hands-on, collaborative learning experiences, whether it’s in the Girl Scouts or elsewhere. A lot of what I do is educating others about the work that the Girl Scouts is an expert in.

Other than a labor shortage, why is it important to get more women into STEM careers?

There will be 1 million jobs in the near future that require a STEM professional, and we won’t have those workers. (Those jobs) pay about 33 percent more than other careers, and we need to get our girls access to those resources. And we need gender diversity in STEM to make a difference as well become a more technology-based society.

What are your goals as a technology advocate?

My ultimate goal is to change the workforce pipeline for North Texas. If I can get more girls to get into STEM and stick with it into high school and college and into the workforce, we’ve done our job. My other goal is also to change how people look at Girl Scouts. People think about us as cookies and crafts. I want to go out and show that Girl Scouts is an important partner in getting our girls into STEM. We’re experts in how girls learn and lead. I want people to look at Girl Scouts as a critical partner to getting more women into the STEM workforce.

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