Chelsea Clinton, other prominent women headline discussion in Denver

Chelsea Clinton. Courtesy: CNN

Chelsea Clinton. Courtesy: CNN

DENVER — Chelsea Clinton joined with women and girls from the Denver area on Monday to help bring national attention to a growing gap between men and women who work in science, technology, engineering and math.

Clinton was one of several prominent women who took part in the panel discussion “From STEM to Success: A No Ceilings Conversation” on Monday morning at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

The Clinton Foundation event featured a live webcast and interactive discussion with women and girls across the country. The goal was to encourage more females to pursue careers in STEM.

“I’m really interested in the sciences and mostly in Oncology,” said Styra Jordan, a member of Teen Science Scholars who attended the event.

“I want to be a chemical engineer,” said Cecilia Jaquez, a student at Hinkley High School in Aurora who was also in attendance.

Female students from the area got front row seats for the national discussion. Clinton began by pointing out that the gap between men and women in STEM jobs has actually grown wider in the past two decades.

“We’re really losing ground in this area, which is why we have such a frenetic focus,” Clinton said.

A 2011 study by the Department of Commerce found women can earn 33 percent more if they choose a STEM career, but women only make up 24 percent of the STEM workforce.

The panel featured several prominent women in STEM careers including Debbie Sterling, the mechanical engineer who is the founder and CEO of GoldiBlox; Danielle Feinberg, the Director of Photography for Pixar and Kari Byron, a host of the television show MythBusters.

“I think that it’s important that we, as women, try to network ourselves and bring each other up,” Byron said.

Online polls during the discussion illustrated the many reasons why girls are often compelled to avoid or exit STEM education or careers. Several women shared their personal struggles including Dominique Torres, who was forced to overcome a college advisor who tried to steer her away from a major in Engineering.

“He said, ‘Well, with your test scores, you know, maybe you should reconsider. You’re just not smart enough for this,'” Torres said.

During a taped statement, which was broadcast to the crowd, Hillary Clinton also shared her own story from when she was in middle school.

“I was totally entranced by the NASA program and wanted to go into space and wrote off a letter,” Clinton said. “NASA wrote back and said, ‘Sorry, we don’t take women.'”

The hope is that by sharing their struggles, the women will inspire the next generation.

“It’s not impossible and it can happen,” said Cecilia Jaquez. “And I thought that was really nice to hear.”

“It just makes me want to do it more because I know that there is not a lot of women who do that,” Styra Jordan said.

Click here to watch “From STEM to Success” in its entirety.