Government-Industry-University Partnerships to Further Gender Equity in STEM Workforce Education

Kirk Knestis PhD - Inciter, Evaluand LLC
Joselina Cheng - University of Central Oklahoma
Claire M. Fontaine - Inciter
Rebekah Feng - Becks Intelligence Group

This paper has two goals: First, to detail processes through which a project funded under a National Science Foundation workforce development program (Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers, ITEST) leveraged active partnerships among government agencies, industry firms, and universities to develop and study an innovative, out-of-school information system and technology workforce education program. The aim of the program was to improve equity of opportunity for high school girls. The program engaged young women from underrepresented subgroups in data science, analytics, information communication technology, and programming learning activities in an experiential, law enforcement computer forensics context. This description of the research team’s process is intended as inspiration and guidance to others considering developing similar programs targeting workforce development in science and technical fields through an equity lens.

Second, this paper shares reflections from senior project personnel on lessons learned while working with cross-sector collaborations, including challenges encountered while implementing components of the program facilitated by the partnership model. The authors adopt a reflective practice orientation, considering implications regarding the most useful—and evolving—roles that cross-sector partnerships might play in developing programs to help students traditionally underrepresented in technical fields be more aware of, interested in, and prepared for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In so doing, the authors offer insights about how university partners might address potential tensions involved in such collaborations.

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