Today’s girls, tomorrow’s entrepreneurs: The role of women in workforce development
From racing robots to deconstructing computers, Karen Lundquist doesn’t have to look far to see ways big and small that her organization is helping shape girls for their professional futures.
The CEO of EmBe views exposing young women to a broad range of opportunities that await in the working world as key to the organization’s mission.
“We believe with the right approaches, we’re finding ways for girls to get involved with science early and stay empowered to pursue the variety of directions their ability can take them,” she said.
Lundquist will be part of a panel at the Aug. 22 WIN in Workforce Summit presented by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.
Moderated by Pam Homan of Augustana University, the panel with Lundquist and Andrea Miller of Journey Group and Carmen Simone of the Community College for Sioux Falls will share insights around the topic of “today’s girls, tomorrow’s entrepreneurs,” discussing the best practices and new approaches they have taken to prepare young women for the workforce.
“There’s information and data behind the stories and examples you’ll hear, so you can adjust and change your own approaches based on what’s working,” Lundquist said. “It’s a real-life, hands-on, nontheoretical approach.”
At EmBe, that takes several forms, including the popular First Lego League, which offers girls (and boys) age 9-14 a robotics program blended with a research approach that gets them excited about science, math and technology while teaching valuable 21st century skills.
“One way we get and keep girls interested in science is by pairing science around activities designed to help other people. So in Lego League, you’re solving problems and challenges,” Lundquist said.
“You have to program and create a robot to do certain things, and then additionally you’re challenged to solve issues facing today’s scientists. Through the ‘Coopertition,’ they learn teamwork and work together to build those tools in a real-life environment.”
The program also includes research throughout the season around a given topic – this year’s theme is City Shaper and involves urban environments – “so the students have to talk to experts and then apply their creativity around the topic,” Lundquist said. “So this year, they’re looking at how to develop and grow a city with support from architects, urban planners, developers and more.”
EmBe also hosts a Girls’ Maker Day twice each year to showcase opportunities in hands-on industries. Partners ranging from the National Weather Service and Sanford Research to DSU and SDSU coordinate activities such as dismantling a computer and trying out a 3-D printer.
“The idea is they can literally try these things out and explore ideas while they’re still 10 or 12 years old, long before they enter high school, and it gives them an idea of where this science is headed,” Lundquist said.
Lundquist also plans to share her personal experience in the prosthetics industry at the WIN Summit. When she began her career in that field in 2000, the industry was less than 10 percent female. It’s now 24 percent female, “so there were a lot of things that had to happen to make those numbers change that dramatically,” she said.
“So I’ll talk about how to get women involved in a traditionally male field that’s very science-based. My message is about how business and education come together to open doors for women in a field where they had not previously seen opportunities.”
That’s a key to helping communities such as Sioux Falls address their workforce needs, she said. And when she’s not contributing on the panel, Lundquist said she’s looking forward to attending the rest of the WIN Summit.
While her session focuses on talent development, others will address talent attraction and business partnerships.
“I don’t think any of these issues get solved by one of us or one idea, but it’s about what happens when we all come together,” she said. “That’s what I’m excited about. I love that the Sioux Falls Development Foundation is convening this in this way.”
The WIN Summit runs from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.