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(ARA) – Millions of jobs will become available in science-, technology-, engineering– and math-related (STEM) fields by 2018, yet the next generation of employees in America will be unprepared and unqualified to take advantage of these positions. According to recent data from the Information Industry Technology Council, our nation’s children are falling behind their international peers in almost every area of STEM education.

In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that although women currently make up more than half the American workforce, they hold only 14 percent of engineering positions and 25 percent of mathematics positions – meaning that there is a pressing need to break down gender barriers in STEM industries.

New research shows there is no difference in ability between men and women. The differences in achievement only appear when lower expectations and distorted perceptions of what is achievable affect motivation levels and confidence.

Some institutions are doing their part to dismantle the social stigmas that keep young women from pursuing math and science. In response to this pressing need to educate tomorrow’s workforce and dissolve stereotypes, DeVry University and Danica McKellar, well-known for her roles on "The Wonder Years" and "The West Wing" and now also a mathematician and best-selling author, are teaming up for National HerWorld month to inspire young women across the country to explore careers in STEM-related fields.

Now in its 13th year, the HerWorld program provides an opportunity for high school girls to explore fast-growing careers of the 21st century in science, technology, engineering and math. National HerWorld month is an initiative hosted by educators that will introduce young girls to women who have excelled in these fields.

"Our society still promotes outdated, negative stereotypes that lead girls from a young age to believe that math is too hard and that it’s only for boys," says McKellar. "For several years, it’s been my mission to reverse these damaging messages by giving girls the tools they need to improve their math skills and self-esteem, and showing them that intelligence is key to becoming a fabulous young woman someday. I’m thrilled to be partnering with DeVry University’s HerWorld program to further this mission. During National HerWorld month, we’ll be introducing high school girls to powerful female role models and opening the door to exciting STEM career opportunities that they may never have imagined possible. We’ll show them: ‘You can do this!’"

More than 7,200 high school girls from hundreds of high schools across the country will participate at nearly 50 local HerWorld events where, in addition to participating in education seminars, confidence building and robotics workshops, they will listen to local female leaders discuss their career journeys and gain inspiration toward their future endeavors. DeVry University’s corporate partners will also take part to support the program’s powerful message. Every participating HerWorld high school across the country will receive a copy of McKellar’s latest book, "Hot X: Algebra Exposed," for their library.

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Author: Andy Quayle

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