Interview with Dr. Marian McKee

Each month we will share an interview with a STEM for Her board member, in order to provide a glimpse into our organization, why we think it’s a great cause, and what you can do to help us!

Dr. Marian McKee has served as the Chair for STEM for Her since May of 2015. She is also the Senior Director of Global Operational Development Services at BioReliance a part of MilliporeSigma in Rockville, MD.

Growing up, Marian always was interested in how and why things work. For as long as she can remember she was interested in biology. As a child, she found a dead snake in her neighborhood, and her first thought was to wonder what the inside of the snake looked like.  Needless to say, as she took biology courses in high school she was fascinated by dissections. Her passion for biology continued to grow and with supportive family, friends and educators she pursued an undergraduate degree in Zoology and her graduate degree in Microbiology and Immunology.  With their encouragement, she never felt like she couldn’t pursue a career in science. In fact, she never realized it was rare for women to be in the science field until one of her graduate school advisors asked her how she planned to be successful in a male-dominated field.

Marian first supported the STEM for Her mission, well before the organization existed. Back in 1995 she began to actively participate in the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Speakers Bureau. As part of the NIH Speakers Bureau, she developed hands on activities to teach K-12 graders more about science. One such project involved a painting activity that demonstrated to students how microorganisms are transmitted from one person to another.

Another way Marian got involved in STEM education is through mentoring. One of the programs STEM for Her funds is the Girls in Technology (GIT) Mentor-Protégé’ program. This program is run by Women in Technology (WIT), an alliance organization, which was founded in 2004.  Marian joined GIT as a mentor in 2012. By serving as a mentor to young women who wanted to explore STEM fields, Marian was able to share the success she has had in her career and inspire young women to pursue degrees and careers in these fields.

One young protégé was so inspired by Marian’s story about that snake, that she came up to Marian after the mentoring session had ended and thanked her for sharing that particular story. The young girl told Marian that her friends called her “weird” for being interested in dissecting animals, but Marian’s story helped her to realize it is okay to be interested in such subjects as they can lead to pursuing what you are passionate about. The girl’s mother wrote to Marian, “Your words have lifted her mind that there is nothing wrong with her, and it reassured her that she is just a young scientist.”

She is happiest sharing her passion for science with others, so Marian continues to be part of the GIT Mentor-Protégé program today. Through her years as a mentor she has seen many young women advance their careers, be unafraid to pursue their passions, and she believes that is due to the impact of direct attention and feedback from other females in STEM fields.

The biggest challenges women face in the STEM field, in Marian’s opinion, is two-fold – first empowering girls to pursue these fields in the first place, and then encouraging them to stay on the path.  She said, “we still encourage boys more towards STEM careers, therefore the girls who are interested in STEM are typically self-motivated, so are we doing something to dampen their enthusiasm?” She noted, “we need to give girls the tools and empowerment to pursue their interests in STEM fields, then also the support needed to keep them in STEM careers.”

By showing young girls examples of successful women in STEM fields, and showing them they are not “weird” or “different” for liking these fields, we can add more women to these fields. By gaining more women, STEM fields will have more diversity of thought. Women bring different ways of thinking to these fields that could create new advancements in STEM we have not yet realized. Additionally, the STEM fields are fast growing, wide ranging, and high paying, which will greatly benefit newly graduating women.

If you would like to join us to help young girls in the greater Washington D.C. area explore careers in STEM, be sure to visit www.stemforher.orgfor more information on our programs. There are two very important ways you can help:

  1. Financial Support: Your donations help STEM for Her meet our vision by funding STEM programs . We seek to use our funds to have the maximum amount of impact on the largest number of girls in our area.
  2. Volunteer: Our organization is comprised solely of volunteers. We have a volunteer board and a number of committees covering every function from fundraising, to administering programs, to research. We are always looking to build a group of participants, speakers and mentors.

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