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Arylene at the IVLP Conference

“Every time I think about the most valuable thing I learned there, the answer will be different,” says Arylene Reycraft, Program and Fund Development Manager at Techsploration about the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

The IVLP Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Conference, held from March 19 – 29, took place in three different American cities: Washington, DC; Orlando, FL; and Cincinnati, OH. Delegates took part in dozens of workshops, tours, and panels focusing on policy initiatives and programs designed to strengthen STEM education and career paths among women in under-served and underrepresented communities.

ivlp2Delegates were able to visit and participate in presentations from the National Science Foundation, the NASA Educator Resource Centre, Lockheed Martin Academy, Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) studios, and the engineers at Universal Studios, the Epcot Science Centre, and the Kennedy Space Centre, plus many others. Each organization discussed their issues in finding women to fill STEM roles, showcased their plans and programs to attract and retain women in these fields, and highlighted the resources they provide to STEM educators.

Reycraft was one of only six Canadian women to attend the conference, invited by the American Consulate on behalf of the State Department.

IVLP1“Of the Canadian participants, I was the oldest among a group of incredibly accomplished women,” says Reycraft. “It seemed that everyone at this conference was an academic except me; so I was able to bring a different perspective—real-world experiences—to the conference. Through Techsploration, I was able to bring a view of what young women are seeing today; instead of what we think they are seeing. Some people at the conference felt that the fight has been fought and things would be easier for the young ones coming up—but I remember having the same conversation 20 years ago.”

The IVLP connects current and emerging foreign leaders with their American counterparts through short-term visits to the United States, facilitating conversation and encouraging international partnerships to tackle key global and domestic issues; such as the shortage of women in STEM.

Techsploration’s programming generated significant attention at the IVLP Conference. Many similar organizations start much younger or older—there was a lot of interest in the impact of a program for young women in grades nine through twelve.

“Attending the IVLP conference showed me that we appear to be unique and truly innovative in accomplishing what we set out to accomplish,” says Reycraft. “Everyone I spoke to had not heard of an organization doing what Techsploration does.”

Women in Science and Engineering, Atlantic Region (WISEatlantic) released a study in 2014 that found young women were 2.7 times more likely to choose a STEM career if they had participated in STEM activities within the past 12 months. Techsploration’s programming targets young women at a critical point when they are choosing high school courses and getting ready to select a university or college. Currently, Techsploration is conducting surveys to determine its long-term impact; the most recent results can be found in the 2015-2016 Community Report.

“There was a lot of networking between the Canadian contingent. We’re hoping to get together again to write a small book or a compilation of advice for girls from super-high level executives,” Reycraft explains. “We want to see something tangible come out of this experience that will contribute to the lives of young women in Canada.”

She continues, “Without question, without exaggerating, this conference was the opportunity of a lifetime.”