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Orlando, Fla. — A high schooler’s extracurricular club is growing and gaining members and soon even recognition as a nonprofit.

Girls ReCode is launched at Lake Highland Preparatory School by sophomore Neha Patil. It is all about instilling interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in younger female students.

One college educator adds her voice to the push for more women in STEM, urging professionals to mentor others

It is true there is typically a real lack of female student interest in STEM topics and that is what Patil wants to change. She is really hoping Girls ReCode will create a safe space for STEM students, to grow into women working in related careers.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women made up just 28% of the country’s STEM workforce in 2019.

Of that, data shows the average percent of females in the following STEM categories: 48% biological scientists, 43% chemists and materials scientists, held about 26% computer and mathematical occupations, and just 16% were engineers and architects.

High school may just be a microcosm of this. Patil has noticed it.

“I saw that there was a gender gap in our community that needed to be fixed, or needed to be bridged I guess,” she explains is what inspired her to start Girls ReCode.

Patil has hosted afterschool help teaching elementary students, and held a summer camp. She is passionate about computer coding and she even made her own app.

Look just across town to college students at the University of Central Florida for another illustration of why clubs like Patil’s may be necessary.

Dr. Sudeshna Pal, a lecturer at the College of Engineering & Computer Science, says the vast majority of her students are male.

“There is this missing component, women component,” Dr. Pal explains. “One thing I will say is missing to a certain extent is the lack of role models.”

Pal challenges more working women to reach out and be mentors to students like hers, and to those passionate high schoolers like Patil.