STEPS for Girls adds leadership program for lab assistants, counselors

BOLD STEPS helps young women build confidence to challenge the glass ceiling
STEPS for Girls lab assistant Amber Knudson, second from right, assists campers with the assembly of robots at UW-Stout’s Jarvis Hall Technology Wing./UW-Stout photos by Brett T. Roseman
Pam Powers | July 24, 2018

University of Wisconsin-Stout senior Kylie Anderson never quite realized how much she uses nonverbal communication until she tried to build a structure from Lego blocks with verbal instructions only.

“That was hard,” said Anderson, STEPS camp counselor and participant in the new BOLD STEPS. “You can’t rely on nonverbal communication. I don’t think people realize how much you rely on it.”

BOLD STEPS — Building Opportunities through Leadership Development — is new this year at UW-Stout. As part of STEPS for Girls — Science, Technology, Engineering Preview Summer program — designed to teach girls going into seventh grade about STEM careers and opportunities, BOLD STEPS is an intensive leadership program for college-age counselors and high school-age lab assistants at STEPS.

Women who are industry leaders meet with counselors and lab assistants and do team-building and leadership-building exercises.

STEPS campers assemble robots. STEPS has added BOLD STEPS this year to help break gender stereotypes and build leadership skills in lab assistants and counselors.

Anderson said BOLD STEPS has been an amazing experience. “It’s super legit,” said Anderson, of Somerset, who is majoring in psychology and who has been a camper and lab assistant at STEPS.

“You get so much out of the program. We can realize what we can bring to the table as a leader. I think everyone is a leader, and people lead in different ways.”

Funding for BOLD STEPS was provided by the Viola Riebe Family Trust, the Community Foundation of Dunn County and Community Foundation of Chippewa County.

Riebe supports STEPS to help encourage young women to go into STEM careers. BOLD STEPS is needed to help young women understand that the glass ceiling exists. “I want them to understand they can break that and (to understand) the skills they will have to have to succeed,” Riebe said.

Director Jo Hopp said STEPS was designed to encourage girls to go into engineering, science and technology fields. The next step is needed. “We need to break through the glass ceiling and inspire more women to go into leadership positions,” Hopp said, noting that’s the goal of BOLD STEPS.

BOLD STEPS helps break gender stereotypes

Counselors and lab assistants are encouraged to reflect and refine their leadership and communication skills and then use those skills at STEPS, Hopp said.

Amber Knudson, a camp lab assistant from Forest Lake, Minn., said BOLD STEPS shows how women can be leaders in STEM programs and in other careers. “I think it helps break gender stereotypes,” said Knudson, who has been a camper and junior counselor.

“Women in the past seemed to stay at home and look after the family more. That’s OK if that is what they want to do. I think it’s important to have a gender balance in leaders. It shows young women more options and helps them emerge with who they want to be. I love STEPS. It shows young women the opportunities out there,” Knudson said.

Matthew Ray, UW-Stout associate professor, demonstrates dust explosions and combustion of dust, to STEPS campers.

Brigit Kyle, a Marinette High School social studies teacher and STEPS camp director, has been involved as a camper, lab assistant, counselor and assistant director with STEPS. She sees the value in having BOLD STEPS. “I am the only woman in my department. I can definitely apply the BOLD STEPS to my life. I am in a field dominated by men.”

Getting women to think about becoming leaders, learning about leaders and improving their communications skills will help them emerge as leaders, Kyle said.

According to the Korn Ferry analysis of the top 1,000 U.S. companies, an average of 23 percent of the top executives in 2017 were women, down from 24 percent in 2016.

Determining values and interaction styles

Jacque Radke, a recent graduate in economics and theater from St. Olaf University, Northfield, Minn., is head counselor at STEPS this year. Radke started as a STEPS camper in 2007 and has been a junior counselor, lab assistant and counselor.

Radke liked the BOLD STEPS activity when participants took a set of value cards and quickly had to choose what they value most. “It is really interesting to see what is most important to you, how you interact with others and what is most important to them,” Radke said. “BOLD STEPS has been a good opportunity for counselors to better develop their leadership and help them to be more effective.”

Radke first attended STEPS in 2007. “I just fell in love with the idea of a camp empowering women. Camp has been so helpful for me to develop as a leader.”

STEPS campers learn about cloud formation and weather patterns during a demonstration using liquid nitrogen.

Kalley Curtis, a UW-Stout 2016 packaging alumna, spoke to lab assistants and counselors about leadership characteristics, mindset and building confidence. “I also had a chance to share my story as an example of someone who was standing in their shoes a short time ago who is now working in a STEM field. I want every participant to know that they are unique, capable and valued young women who have a chance to make an impact as female leaders in STEM.”

Curtis has been a camper, junior counselor, lab assistant and counselor with STEPS, which she credits with giving her the confidence to pursue a STEM career. “I think BOLD STEPS is an excellent addition to the program because it targets development in a crucial time for making decisions about college and a future career,” said Curtis, who lives in the Milwaukee area. “It gives the girls a chance to ask questions and build crucial leadership skills in a safe environment with the right resources.”

This is the 22nd Year of STEPS, which started when the university found it difficult to find women faculty members in engineering and technology. Four weeklong sessions started in July and continue until Aug. 2. Students build a remote-controlled robot and receive classroom instruction, along with doing activities and taking company tours. Learn more at www.uwstout.edu/outreach-engagement/community-connections/youth-camps-programs/steps-girls.

STEPS sponsors include UW-Stout, 3M, Andersen Windows, Polaris, SC Johnson, Xcel Energy, Hampton Family Trust, Viola Riebe Family Trust, Dean Neuburger and the Barbara Cushman Blue Fund. A full list sponsors can be found at wwwcs.uwstout.edu/steps/sponsors.cfm.

Photos

STEPS for Girls lab assistant Amber Knudson, second from right, assists campers with the assembly of robots at UW-Stout’s Jarvis Hall Technology Wing./UW-Stout photos by Brett T. Roseman

STEPS campers assemble robots. STEPS has added BOLD STEPS this year to help break gender stereotypes and build leadership skills in lab assistants and counselors.

Matthew Ray, UW-Stout associate professor, demonstrates dust explosions and combustion of dust, to STEPS campers.

STEPS campers learn about cloud formation and weather patterns during a demonstration using liquid nitrogen.