Digital Divas Enhances STEM Opportunities for Women 

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Careers in science, technology engineering and math, or STEM, are quickly growing across the country. As the field evolves, women are rising in the ranks and claiming a large majority of STEM-related positions across health fields. However, according to Pew Research there is a lack of representation in areas of physical science, computing and engineering. Though women are making advances, Black and Hispanic women remain underrepresented across STEM careers. Increasing access and knowledge can help to open lanes to the career path and level the playing field across all areas of STEM. 


Eastern Michigan University (EMU) is lending a hand in an effort to expose more young girls to careers in STEM. Founding the Digital Divas program in 2010, EMU is reaching into the community and helping girls discover a career path of endless opportunity. The program helps to dispel gender stereotypes in the field through mentorship, hands-on activity and engagement.  


“My job is a job I invented. This didn’t exist before and I did it out of a passion because I was limited on the opportunities I had available. I didn’t know that I can be anything and do anything. For the last 20 years of my career, I’ve been promoting education to women and girls who don’t know their options,” said Bia Hamed, program director for Digital Divas.  


Though women make up a large percentage of those entering post-secondary education and college graduates, the numbers remain low for women and girls in STEM classrooms. To combat this, EMU created the program out of necessity and the desire to level the playing field.  


“It’s a program that a faculty member started because of the lack of females in his classroom in these technology majors. I kind of took it over and made it all about underserved girls in all communities — girls who may be the first-generation college student, girls that don’t know their options, don’t have role models, as well as any girl out there,” said Hamed. “My job, I feel like I’m the facilitator of STEM equity. It’s my job to let everyone know about these great jobs in STEM and how you get there.” 


The Digital Divas program has been an integral part of Inkster Public Schools, but recently extended its reach into Detroit. Partnering with CODE313, a Detroit non-profit focused on STEM, Digital Divas combined sports with technology to introduce girls to a new level of careers in the field.  


“I received funding to do an Esports team for girls. That’s one of my passions. Esports is video games online and the benefit for kids, girls especially, is it builds all these soft skills in them. It builds communication skills and it builds leadership skills. It develops critical thinking skills and it kind of pulls girls out of their shell,” said Hamed.  


With the mindset of attacking STEM representation at its root, the Digital Divas program is impacting girls on both a micro and macro level. Through the Esports program, each girl is given her own laptop helping to close one barrier of the digital divide.  


Another barrier for underrepresented girls entering the STEM field is cost. With many families facing economic hardships, programs may present a financial challenge. The Digital Divas program helps to mitigate costs as it is free to all who enroll in the program.  


“Everything I touch is free. All my programming is free. I never charge one single penny for any of the programming and this is important because costs could be a negative thing. It could keep people away. We don’t want that. It prohibits access,” said Hamed.  


For Black students, who earned 7 percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees in 2018, representation is slow. In the predominantly African American city, Detroit’s youth can lose sight of its opportunities. As Digital Divas focuses on the importance of STEM, the chance to embark on a new career path can be life changing. 


Black women make up more than six percent of the population across the country, yet only account for two percent of STEM professionals. However, with the help of programs like Digital Divas, the tides are changing.  

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