Operation Minerva revitalization

The Cause

AWSN is a network of programs across Alberta who support diversity in STEM careers through programs for Recruitment (youth: girls, indigenous youth, rural youth), Retention (STEM-trained women, immigrants) and Recognition (awards, scholarships, mentorships). We host Operation Minerva (OM); a 1 day job-shadowing event for Grade 8 girls (Calgary) or Grade 9 girls (Medicine Hat) to job-shadow a STEM woman in her workplace. Grade 8/9 are critical years in STEM education as that time when girls actively choose or not to pursue science subjects. Mentors and role models for girls at this age are critically important to keep their interest in science subjects; not just to pursue STEM as a career, but also to be critical thinkers and actively engaged citizens as adults. The current program in Calgary finds mentoring women and companies to host up to 120 spots. Each school in Calgary can recommend only two girls to attend. The need for this type of event is greater than two girls/school and teachers always struggle to select two deserving girls among the many that should or want to attend.
The two largest component costs for this program are the coordinator and busing the girls all over Calgary to host companies. In Medicine Hat, transport is part of a rural program, thus not a direct cost to AWSN. Because of the cost, two sites (Red Deer and Lethbridge) have dropped the program. We are seeking to revitalize the program, particularly in Calgary, with a different format. Our idea is to recruit 10 or more Calgary companies to host a 1 day or several days (non-consecutive) event(s) for all the girls from one class or school to visit the company site. This will have a greater impact on the participating companies who may be taking in 20 or more girls/day over the 6-10 they make currently take, yet provide a greater number of girls impacted and hopefully extend the connection beyond one day. Each company will be encouraged to “adopt” a class where company staff can attend classes and make STEM presentations, or serve as mentors for Science Fair or other types of projects or programs.
Currently, girls who participate compete in a post-event essay contest. Post-event success can be further encouraged through alumni joining Cybermentor or attending in future years’ events as mentors, planners, presenters or recruiters in their schools.

Who Will it Benefit?

Currently, OMCalgary reaches 120 girls/year. Operation Minerva Medicine Hat reaches 30-40 girls/year. More girls and sites are possible. Mentoring companies participate year after year and many AWSN volunteers come from either OM mentorship or were participants. Operation Minerva in Calgary will be 30 years running in 2018, OM Medicine celebrated 25 years in 2017. The number of years that the program has been operating suggests the success of the program, interest of teachers and girls, and the ability of AWSN to keep a program sustainable. Despite the program’s success, there is a significant push to expand the number of girls able to participate, but funding is not available to double the current busing or increased coordinator’s time for matching girls and companies. If we change the program format and have adopting companies able to take 20 girls or more/year, then our reach extends to well over 200/year with 10 companies and we anticipate more than 10 companies will become involved.
We expect the outcome to be positive for both the girls (and boys) in an adopted class, for the teachers who will have a better understanding of the application of STEM subjects, and for the companies in terms of sponsorship, promotional activities, volunteering/mentoring, and their staff learning science communication skills. The OM coordinator will assist in arranging busing or other details that a company may not wish to take on. The OM committee has several teachers who will outline learning objectives and outcomes for the class as well as guidance for the companies, thus companies will be able to be mentored by a teacher as much as they mentor the girls. Secondary impacts of classroom visits will be for the boys in the class and/or additional classes.
As OM may not like to lose some of the smaller mentoring companies, modifications of the program could resemble programs like ExploreIT (a one day event held at SAIT, MRU and UCalgary; ExploreIT is an AWSN member program) and ongoing mentoring could be coordinated with CyberMentor and their event Fusion.
Program guidelines would be made available to all the member programs of AWSN and to others. It is anticipated that such a revitalized program would enable AWSN re-seek hosts and provide funding in other jurisdictions in Alberta such as Red Deer, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and other locations where Operation Minerva has been held in the past.