The STEAM Effect

5 min readNov 5, 2021

Reducing Poverty by Empowering Girls in Developing Countries

Girls from Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, and the United States greet each other at the 2021 Girl Up WiSci Morocco Camp.
Girls from across Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, and the United States greet each other during the 2021 WiSci Morocco Girls in STEAM Camp held in August 2021.

Technology drives our global economy, which means investing in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) training is our passport to the future. New technologies are dramatically changing how we work in the global environment and how we address global issues. More so, automation and scientific advancements are creating opportunities and hurdles in developing countries. As the global community works to overcome the effects of COVID-19, climate change, and diminishing natural resources, it is STEM training and jobs that will help shape how we successfully navigate these and future challenges.

Here in the United States, two out of three jobs and nearly 70 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) can be attributed to scientific, engineering, and math activities. Additionally, U.S. STEM jobs generate $2.3 trillion in tax revenues annually. If that’s the case here in the U.S., it would make sense then that STEM job and education fields around the world are equitably represented across genders and nationalities…only that’s not the case.

“The education gender gap costs the world between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in human capital.” — Center on Foreign Relations

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), women make up only 28 percent of the STEM workforce and men vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields in college. A report by AAUW titled Why So Few? found that social and environmental factors contribute to the underrepresentation of women in science and engineering, recommending that we (as parents, teachers, and civic leaders; among other things) must “cultivate girls’ achievement and interest in science.” This is EXACTLY what the U.N. Foundation’s Girl Up and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) partnered to do!

Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Design, and Math (STEAM)

In August of this year, Girl Up hosted the 2021 Women in Science (WiSci) Morocco Girls Camp, a virtual, two-week camp with trainings in science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and math (STEAM). A total of 100 girls from across Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, and the United States were selected to join the camp for an opportunity to delve into the world of tech.

“The WiSci Girls STEAM Camp initiative is a proven public-private partnership that uses a summer camp model to encourage adolescent girls to pursue further education and consider careers in the STEAM fields,” said Bailey Leuschen, Girl Up’s Director of Programs and Impact. “The WiSci Girls STEAM Camp aims to help bridge gaps through access to 21st century project-based learning, mentorship opportunities with global experts, support and cross-cultural friendships with like-minded peers, and transformational leadership training led by Girl Up.”

The campers started their journey with a Girl Up orientation, featuring inspiring words from Girl Up’s Executive Director Melissa Kilby, Intel’s Deputy Director Dr. Gabriela Gonzalez, U.S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire Richard Bell, U.S. Ambassador to Morocco David Green, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Deputy CEO Alexia Latortue and WiSci partners from the Millennium Challenge Account — Cote d’Ivoire and the Millennium Challenge Account — Morocco.

“Worldwide, women represent only 35% of all students enrolled in STEM-related fields of study. “ — Bailey Leuschen, Girl Up’s Director of Programs and Impact

To help spur creative learning, camp attendees were divided into seven cohorts; each having to opportunity to experience an Intel Future Skills STEM Workshop. The cohorts where given various engineering challenges and worked as teams to come up with innovative solutions. At the end of the first week, Intel coaches and STEM leaders joined the individual cohort’s Zoom rooms to discuss their careers and provide advice for the girls trying to break into STEAM.

“At the beginning everyone was really shy, and they don’t know each other; so that’s normal,” said Somaya, a WiSci counselor from Morocco. “But at the end of the camp, and as we were going forward with the trainings, they got to know each other. They were more talkative, and they started sharing their personal stories with us — moments when they felt inspired, their goals, their dreams — and it was just all of this positive energy.”

Faced with having to organize and execute the WiSci Morocco event during a global pandemic, Leuschen said they overcame some big hurdles while providing his opportunity for the girls who attended. “Implementing the first virtual WiSci Girls STEAM Camp during WiSci Morocco represented a seismic shift and evolution in the WiSci program overall.”

Camp partners are currently evaluating data to better understand lessoned learned from WiSci Morocco. Their goal is to apply the findings to improve the second virtual WiSci camp to be held in January 2022 (How very scientific!). WiSci Central America will be open to campers from the U.S. and territories, Panama, and Costa Rica and will be held in Spanish and English. Camp partners include the Caterpillar Foundation, Intel Foundation, and the U.S. Department of State. Girl Up’s thanked its many partners for in a press release for helping make WiSci Morocco a great success.

“Thanks to the dedication of the partners who made it happen, including the Intel Foundation, the Caterpillar Foundation, the U.S. Department of State, the Millennium Challenge Account — Morocco, the Millennium Challenge Account-Cote d’Ivoire, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Special thanks to the TE Foundation whose generosity enabled every camper to receive a Wi-Fi enabled tablet device to use during camp and keep after camp.”

#STEM #WomenInScience #MCC #EmpoweringGirls #Morocco #Coted’Ivoire #GirlUp #WiSci #UNFoundation




MCC — the Millennium Challenge Corporation — is an innovative & independent U.S. Government agency reducing global poverty through economic growth.