Stories for STEM Girls

When Jean Fan, Engr '13, began her PhD program in bioinformatics at Harvard University in 2013, she made a troubling observation: She was the only woman in her program.

Jean Fan

Image caption: Jean Fan

Image credit: Courtesy of Jean Fan

Women occupy only about a quarter of the jobs in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math—a statistic Fan hopes to change through storytelling. Fan's nonprofit, CuSTEMized, encourages girls to imagine themselves in STEM careers by creating a personalized book and poster in which they are the protagonist. "You can read books about a character who's really awesome, but there's always this notion that she's special, that she can do this because she's awesome and you're not," Fan said. "But this is about you. This says 'I believe you can do this.'"

Fan aims to scale up the organization in 2016 by designing new books and products and delivering more books to classrooms. Not everyone will enter a STEM field, Fan says, but all students can benefit from the critical thinking methods these subjects encourage. ALISON HENRY

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