Senator Sharon Hewitt delivers keynote address to Bossier Chamber's Education & Innovation Luncheon: Inspiring Women in STEM
Education & Innovation Luncheon: Senator Sharon Hewitt encourages female STEM students
Louisiana Senator Sharon Hewitt highlights Education & Innovation event
For the second year, the Bossier Chamber of Commerce hosted the Education & Innovation Luncheon: Inspiring Women in Stem, sponsored by Bossier Parish Community College along with Barksdale Federal Credit Union, Benteler Steel/Tube, Cyber Innovation Center, Forte and Tablada, and Northwestern State University.
This luncheon, highlighted STEM education as well as the STEM job sector — an industry expected to grow faster than other occupations in the next decade but one which is lacking in female representation.
To encourage more females to enter STEM professions, the Bossier Chamber invited successful women in STEM fields and 75 Bossier Parish and Caddo Parish female high school students to attend the event and sit together, a way to encourage the students to continue to reach for successful careers in STEM-related fields.
The event featured Louisiana Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a former engineering executive who managed major deepwater assets in the Gulf of Mexico for Shell. Recently, Sen. Hewitt authored Senate Bill 225, which creates the Louisiana Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Advisory Council under the purview of the Board of Regents.
Hewitt told the audience she was “inspired” by them as she saw the students in attendance. She told the students her story – as a female in the male-dominated world of engineering.
“I was the only female in my mechanical engineering class,” she said. “I didn’t see myself as a female; I saw myself as an engineer.”
“The guys offshore didn’t quite know what to do with me, and that’s OK because I didn’t quite know what to do with them. But, we were all there to do a job,” Hewitt explained of her first job working as the Shell engineer on off-shore rigs. Hewitt said she earned their respect, and they, hers. “And I believe I did a good job.”
After engineering, Hewitt moved to another male-dominated sector – state politics. And she encouraged the females in the room to join her there in the coming years to help guide our state’s government. Hewitt is doing that with her STEM bill.
Hewitt said, nationally, 48 percent of students are interested in STEM fields but only 26 percent are STEM-ready. In Louisiana, 52 percent of students show an interest in STEM but a mere 14 percent are STEM-ready based on ACT scores.
And, Hewitt said she wants to help Louisiana fix that.
“I want Louisiana to be the go-to state for STEM talent,” she said. And, the advisory council produced from Senate Bill 225 is a step in doing that, as well as guiding the education of Louisiana’s future.
As a final note of encouragement, she told the students:
“Outwork everyone else and prove you are the best…you can be anything you want to be!”
The Bossier Innovates Foundation awarded nine scholarships to Bossier Parish high school females who have declared they plan to seek a major in a STEM-related field in college. The scholarships were sponsored by AT&T, Brown Builders, Fire Tech Systems, Forte and Tablada, Magee Resource Group, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems and STARBASE Louisiana.
And the recipients of $1,000 scholarships were: Kenzie Farquhar, Haughton High School, Jade Champagne, Benton High School, Megan Cox, Benton High School, Hailey Densmore, Haughton High School, Brianna Rogers, Parkway High School, and Kayla Cassidy, Benton High School. The recipients of the $500 scholarships were: Jocelyn Feaster, Parkway High School, Bailee Rattanachai, Haughton High School, and Miranda Pickard, Haughton High School.
Additionally, the Bossier Innovates Foundation honored two STEM teachers with the Excellence in Education & Innovation Award. The recipients were Laurie Salvail, a teacher at Kingston Elementary School, and Terence Flores, a teacher at Caddo Magnet High School.