As Thanksgiving draws near, we reflect upon how thankful we are to have strong leaders in our community. One of these leaders is Liz Bowman.
Liz serves as CEO of SARSEF, a nonprofit on a mission to create the next generation of critical thinkers and problem solvers through science and engineering. With an emphasis on equity, SARSEF programs emphasize each student’s ability to solve a real-world problem using STEM research. SARSEF engages over 100,000 Pre-K-12 students in Arizona each year.
“We are making progress towards equity in STEM, but some fields are moving faster than others.”
Being raised by a strong female leader, Liz learned from her mother that women can – and should – break the gender barriers. With women comprising only 14% of practicing engineers in the United States and just 5% of Fortune 500 companies run by women, the statistics are sobering. Liz encourages all of us to aim to look beyond our unconscious biases to create intentional change.
“When women lead, everyone benefits.”
With a dedication to not only gender equality, but ethnic and socioeconomic equality as well, SARFSEF reaches students early – before stereotypes permanently affect the way they see themselves and the world. As early as kindergarten girls often give up on the idea of STEM-related jobs. SARSEF aims to break the cycle with their Pre-K educational programs. SARSEF does not charge for their programs so that everyone can benefit.
“My favorite part of leading SARSEF is when I see the look of confidence on a child's face when they realize that THEY did something incredible. It is a small spark that turns in to a wide grin. It makes every moment worth it!”
All of the SARSEF programs are centered around using science and engineering to create a positive change in the world- something that has been proven to engage girls who want to make a difference. SARSEF also works with teachers who might not have had a positive experience with STEM in the past to give them the confidence to teach while serving as a positive role model for their students.
Liz began her own scientific career as a SARSEF participant, leading to international recognition at seven science fair competitions resulting in over $260,000 in prizes. This research experience led to her Master’s degree in Evolutionary and Comparative Psychology from the University of St. Andrews, and career highlights including serving as a Researcher for Koko the signing gorilla and Deputy Director of SARSEF. Now, Liz serves on the Board of Rotary Club of Tucson and is a member of Charter 100 Arizona, AAUW- American Association of University Women Tucson Branch, and the International Science Fair Planning Committee. An advocate for equal opportunity in STEM education, Liz has been recognized with honors such as Tucson Hispanic Chamber’s 40 Under 40, Women of Influence Education Champion, Greater Tucson Leadership 2016, and WISE’s Award for Excellence in K-12 STEM Diversity
Not only is Thanksgiving a time to be thankful, but a time to give back. Liz reminds us to never underestimate the power of volunteering. Volunteer to fill a leadership position in a school club or student government. Volunteer at a nonprofit that is helping something you care about. Every volunteer position will give you a skill set that you can build on, and the more you take on, the more you will grow as a leader. And most importantly, don't let voice that says "you are not qualified" or "you don't know how" win.
“Be brave, take risks, because you can do it if you try.”
Thank you, Liz. Thank you for inspiring our youth and for all you do for our community!