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Exelon plant generates girl power

Dresden hosts science, leadership academy for girls

Participants in STEM Innovation Leadership Academy for girls put on protective suits as part of the hands-on activities at Dresden Nuclear Generating Station in Morris last week.
Participants in STEM Innovation Leadership Academy for girls put on protective suits as part of the hands-on activities at Dresden Nuclear Generating Station in Morris last week.

More than 40 girls swarmed Dresden Generating Station in Morris last week to learn how a nuclear power station is run as part of a program to help get girls interested in science-based careers.

The Exelon Foundation noticed only 15 percent of high school girls in the U.S. have communicated an interest in STEM, whereas the number of interested boys was near 40 percent.

Working with the United Nations (UN) Women HeForShe Initiative, the Exelon Foundation created an opportunity for junior and senior level high school girls to partake in its inaugural STEM Innovation Leadership Academy in Chicago.

“In school, the amount of girls and boys in the lower level STEM classes is about the same, but as you get higher in levels, I would say there isn’t as many girls,” Bella Rosenberg, 16, said.

In its inaugural year, 41 girls attended the weeklong camp July 15 through 21 at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Panels with women leaders in organizations such as ComEd, Exelon, JP Morgan Chase, American Red Cross Illinois, and Chicago Public Schools allowed the girls to have an open format to ask questions on education and paths to success as women.

Other events in the lineup included energy focused workshops led by the National Energy Education Development Project and the visit to Dresden Station in Morris for experience in the simulator control room.

During the field trip to Dresden on July 18, the girls watched educational videos and were introduced to the procedures of the plant. They visited the control room simulator, performed team building activities and were introduced to an innovation challenge.

Steve Solomon, Exelon vice president of corporate relations, said the utilities field as of now does not employ many women, but the company strives for gender equality and looks for ways to retain the rate of women as well as look long term on how to bring more women into the utilities field. Solomon said a major goal was to show different sides of energy companies and showcase available opportunities to the girls. He wants to show these girls that there are many avenues within these companies not just in engineering, but accounting, human resources and legal services to name a few.

Solomon said the Exelon Foundation committed $700,000 for the STEM Innovation Leadership Academy and STEM Saturday events. STEM Saturdays were designed as day trips to places such as the Brookfield Zoo or the Shedd Aquarium. These events allowed the participants to inquire about education requirements in certain fields, listen to a panel of women leaders and offered company connections. After the STEM Academy, Solomon said up to eight more STEM Saturdays will take place as well as other events.

The National Science Foundation reported that jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are forecasted to grow 39 percent faster than non-STEM jobs.

“By creating opportunities for young women to learn about and pursue STEM-related careers, we are nurturing the next generation of leaders,” Exelon President and CEO Chris Crane said.

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