Meteorologist and Dress for STEM organizer Julia Weiden joins the AccuWeather Network to discuss the importance and creation of Dress for STEM.
BERNIE RAYNO: This is Dress for STEM Day as we celebrate fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We're joined via Skype by Julia Weiden, a Dress for STEM organizer and also a meteorologist. Good morning, Julia. It is great to talk to you. Let's get right to it. Lots to discuss. What is Dress for STEM?
JULIA WEIDEN: Well, hey, Bernie. It's so good to see you. Just got to say that.
So Dress for STEM is a grassroots movement to raise awareness about the need for more women in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. It's an annual event where we wear purple and we start a conversation, and we hopefully inspire young girls to pursue their passion in those STEM fields and ideally carry through to pursuing a career in those fields later on.
Today if we look at the workforce, women make up about half of it, but we only make up about 28% of STEM careers. So there's a pretty wide gender disparity there.
BERNIE RAYNO: And, Julia, how did it get started, and how has it grown?
JULIA WEIDEN: Yeah, so this was actually started by a group of female meteorologists. I don't know if you know this, Bernie, but we have a Facebook group where we all get together and we talk about the different issues that we face as on-air meteorologists.
And a few years ago, several years ago, we were talking about different dresses that we're able to wear on air. There was one dress that we found. It was inexpensive. It met all of those on-air requirements. And we all bought it, and it spread like wildfire. And we decided to wear it on air on the same day for a good cause that we're all really passionate about, which, again, is talking about the underrepresentation of women in STEM.
A couple of years into it-- I think it was our third annual event-- we realized we wanted to expand this beyond meteorology. So we changed from that dress to just all wearing purple and using that as our conversation starter.
BERNIE RAYNO: And, Julia, why are female meteorologists so passionate about this cause?
JULIA WEIDEN: Yeah, it's really because we've lived it. We are all educated in science and math. When you take atmospheric-science courses, they're very calculus and physics heavy, so we've really all had that experience of being in the minority in our classrooms and then going on into our field-- into the careers we pursue.
AccuWeather is a little different. You've got a lot of on-air female meteorologists at AccuWeather, which is just fantastic, but not every station is like that, and certainly not every career is like that.
So we're just really trying to bring awareness to this because we know there are so many young girls in elementary school that are passionate about STEM. But once they get to middle school they lose that interest. And we want to inspire these young girls to actually be aware that there are positive female role models in STEM and that they can be like their role models. They can go on, pursue that education in science and math, and eventually, again, land in a career later in life.
BERNIE RAYNO: And, Julia, why is it so important to have women in STEM?
JULIA WEIDEN: Yeah, it's so important because when you look at STEM fields, they're problem-solving fields, and we need more diverse people at the table solving the problems. When you have more diversity at the table, you bring more diverse solutions to your problems.
Also, another way to look at it is that one of our STEM fields is the medical field, and if you don't have women involved in medical research, then you don't wind up with medical solutions that are tailored towards women, and that could actually be really harmful to women in general. It's just so important to get medical solutions and just, again, general solutions to all of the problems that we have that are influenced by women so we can have solutions that are tailored to women.
BERNIE RAYNO: And, Julia, how can-- how can AccuWeather viewers get involved?
JULIA WEIDEN: Yeah, it's so easy. We just encourage everyone to wear purple today and take a picture of yourself and post it on social media. Use the hashtag #DressForSTEM when you're posting it.
And if you are a young girl and you are interested in science, check out AccuWeather. Check out all the fantastic female role models that are on screen here. If you're a parent and you have a daughter who's maybe getting into that middle-school age, you're noticing that their interested in science and math that they used to be really passionate about might starting to drop-- dropping off, have a conversation with them. Get them involved. Introduce them to one of the role models that you see today and help them pursue that passion further in life.
BERNIE RAYNO: Julia Weiden, it is a pleasure to see you again and to speak with you again. And I must say, you look fantastic in the purple.
JULIA WEIDEN: So do you. Purple looks good on you, Bernie.
BERNIE RAYNO: [LAUGHS] Always a pleasure. Thanks, Julia.