Jun 24, 2012

Girl Scouts ask: How do we inspire girls to enter careers in science or engineering?

Here’s the situation:

• Women account for about only 20% of the bachelor’s degrees in engineering, computer
science, and physics.
• Regardless of specific area of STEM, women hold only about 25% of these positions.

While Boy Scouts offer merit badges in welding, nuclear science, and other potential career choices as I wrote about in a previous post, Girl Scouts of America are asking the key questions. Not why aren’t girls going into these careers, not what’s wrong with the system, but what do girls want, what really interests them? In short, what’s the customer pull?

Last year the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) conducted a study, and reported out this year in Generation STEM: What girls say about science, technology, engineering, and math.(1)

Contrary to the belief that girls don’t like math and science, or aren’t smart enough, the study found:

• 74% of high school girls across the country are interested in STEM. 
• Girls like the process of learning, asking questions, and problem solving. 
• Girls want to help people and make a difference in the world. 
• Girls interested in STEM have supportive adult networks and are exposed to STEM fields. 
• Girls who are interested in STEM fields are also interested in other subjects and career opportunities. 
• Girls perceive gender barriers.

Girls interested in STEM like to understand how things work (87%), solve problems (85%), do hands-on activities (83%) and ask questions (80%). Two thirds of them like building things, understanding how things are built, and doing math problems.

Interest in STEM went along with confidence. Girls interested in STEM believe that they are smart enough to have a career in STEM -- 92%. On the other hand, only 68% of girls not interested in STEM think they’re smart enough.

Awareness, family support, and early experience mattered when it comes to building interest in science and technology. 53% of girls interested in STEM know a woman in a STEM career, compared to only 35% who are not interested. Their dads tended to be more interested in STEM than their moms, but were encouraged in that direction by both parents. Fewer girls in the non-STEM interest group had done hands-on science activities when younger, gone to a science museum, or were involved in an extracurricular STEM activity.

Meet Ariel: Reduced hospital-acquired infections from stethoscopes
Girl Scouts 2011 Young Woman of Distinction

Girls want to help people and make a difference in the world. They want to have input into how the job is done, make money, think, practice what they love, collaborate, be creative, work with their hands.

The reality is that girls said their social influences -- their peers -- aren’t planning for STEM careers. They feel uncomfortable about being the only girl in a group or class, and they think they’d have to work harder than a man just to be taken seriously. Sadly, not much has changed in the decades since women first pushed their way into the STEM workforce.

Girl Scouts of America say they reach 2.4 million girls ages 5-17. That’s a conduit that can bypass our educational system that we blame for many of our workforce problems. What can we do? 
Just as I said you can do with the Boy Scouts, you can extend a helping hand to your local or regional Girl Scout council. Open your doors to tours. Fund trips to museums, robotics competitions, and science camp. Make girls aware of scholarships you offer -- you do offer them, don’t you?

Importantly, give women employees the time and support to reach out and mentor girls in your community. Girls need to see themselves as part of the manufacturing and continuous improvement future -- and not as the only girl in the room.

(1) The Generation STEM study LINK was conducted March 2011by the Girl Scout Research Institute. They held eleven focus groups in six geographical areas, which included 140 girls, half of them Girl Scouts, and half with exposure to STEM (after-school, camp, Girl Scout event). They also conducted an online survey a national sample of 852 girls ages 14-17. Lockheed Martin helped support this study.

Jun 17, 2012

Boy Scouts explore welding as well as the wilderness.

While pundits moan about the lack of a young, interested, and trained workforce for today’s high-skilled manufacturing jobs, the Boy Scouts have teamed up with organizations like the American Welding Society to change that. In addition to badges for wilderness survival and wood carving, Scouts can now earn badges for welding, nuclear science, composite materials, engineering, and robotics.

In a February press release, David Landon, vice president, American Welding Society, said, “By the end of the decade, it is estimated there will be a critical need for over 200,000 new and replacement welders in the United States. The future of the welding industry depends upon preparing the next generation and that’s why AWS is really excited to work with the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts of America possess the leadership and values necessary to advance the productivity of the welding industry.” 

The Boy Scouts of America have had help from schools, companies, and government organizations. Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy, iRobot Corporation, LEGO® Education North America, Museum of Science, Boston, NASA were all involved in the development of the Robotics badge, and similar resources were recruited for the other badges. Each one has a menu of requirements.

Boy Scouts introduce
welding merit badge

What does the Scout have to do to earn the Welding merit badge?


Understand safety hazards and what to do about them. Be able to explain terminology like electrode and oxidation. Be able to describe the welding process in terms of equipment, materials, and some metallurgy. Know what the various types of welding are, and describe two of them, including advantages and limitations.

Set up for welding, with all the equipment, materials, and settings made ready. Under the watchful eye of the counselor, after scribing your initials in a metal plate, weld a bead on the pattern. Cover a 3" x 3" x ¼" with weld beads, tack plates with a square groove butt joint, then weld them, do the same with a T joint and fillet weld, tack and weld a lap joint.

Scout out the manufacturing landscape. Find out what career opportunities there are and what education and experience are needed, then discuss them with your counselor. Learn how the American Welding Society fits into the welding profession.


More new merit badges

The Drafting badge is mainly focused on CAD and includes an optional requirement (is there such a thing?) to visit a drafting facility, see the drawings, find out about what software they use, and understand the drawing process fits into the process of producing the company’s end products.

I also like the Truck transportation merit badge. Its scope is the whole supply chain, including mapping the international flow of goods, understanding types of trucks, visiting truck terminals and talking to drivers, learning about safety and maintenance issues, and government agencies in the whole system. The Scout gets to know how a trucking company is organized and what jobs are found there, and how to prepare and dispatch a shipment meeting specific time requirements. The skills explored range from the drivers to the dispatchers to the supply chain managers.

Composite materials
merit badge

What I like

  1. The learn/practice/explore pattern for earning each badge.  
  2. The role of the counselor to coach and evaluate the Scout.
  3. How the requirements reveal the skilled trades, engineering, and scientific facets of each process or field.
  4. Whatever career path the Scout envisions following, he will have an understanding of the other facets of his profession.
  5. There is no steering, tracking, or ranking of the available careers.

Be prepared

I talked to my friend Tim McMahon, author of A Lean Journey blog, about his Boy Scout experience. Tim was an Eagle Scout and says he earned every merit badge at the time. His oldest boy is in Cub Scouts. He says that aside from skills built through merit badges, “The boys learn leadership skills by running patrols or other groups -- teams -- in Scouts. I think if you search for company CEOs you will find a number of them are Eagle Scouts.

“The Scouts also learn teamwork and problem solving skills by solving challenges, typically related to the outdoors but not always.  It is not uncommon to be given a box of items that the boys have to build something to solve a problem -- build a fire, measure a distance, find a location, and so on.”

Tim’s in tune with the Boy Scouts of America parent organization. When the Robotics merit badge was first announced, BSA Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca has said, “While the guiding principles of Scouting—service to others, leadership, personal achievement, and respect for the outdoors—will never change, we continue to adapt programs to prepare young people for success in all areas of life.” 

How to help. 

You don’t have to be a parent of a scout age kid. Volunteer to help your local troop. Arrange a tour of your facility. Conduct a lean simulation? Like all things troops vary in how active they are, how they tap outside resources, and what they focus on. You might have to look around a bit to find the troop you are in sync with. But think about it. For more information on the Boy Scouts of America, please visit www.scouting.org.

What’s missing?

There is no equivalent program in today’s Girl Scouts of America. We’ll take a look at that in my next post.

Jun 2, 2012

Quality problems at Johnson & Johnson cost $$$ and risk lives

When I went to CVS the other day to stock up on Mylanta (don't ask), I noticed that the shelves were half empty. First thought -- this store isn't doing such a great job on restocking.

Then I saw the signs tacked up in the spaces where the antacid belonged. Mylanta is unavailable from the manufacturer, but the CVS brand is in good supply. I hadn’t noticed before because I buy the store brand anyway, but what was going on?

Later I fired up Google. Johnson & Johnson has been having a rash of problems, and not just with Mylanta.

The Mylanta issue was one of labeling compliance. According to Mylanta.com, J&J recalled it because minute amounts of alcohol from flavoring agents was not noted on the packaging. But this happened in 2010. Does it take more than a year to reprint labels?

Retailers with their own sources of supply are reaping a bonanza as J&J suffers. CVS doesn't hesitate to persuade consumers to try a store brand. Think they will go back to paying more for a branded product when it gets back on the shelves?

How about Tylenol? J&J announced last June, 60,912 bottles of TYLENOL®, Extra Strength Caplets, manufactured in February, 2009, were pulled from retail stores due to reports of a musty, moldy odor. J&J says trace amounts of 2,4,6-tribromoanisole (TBA), which is a byproduct of a chemical preservative used on wood pallets. In January 2010, J&J instituted actions to reduce the potential of TBA contamination. Suppliers must now certify they don’t use such pallets. TBA problems also caused recalls of Benadryl, Motrin, the HIV/AIDS medicine PREZISTA, RISPERDAL, and Topamax. (Press releases issued through 2011)

In August, J&J recalled TYLENOL® Cold Multi-Symptom Nighttime Rapid Release Gelcaps when product sampling showed that Chlorpheniramine Ammonio Acetate (CPAA), was higher than expected. J&J says that some CPAA, formed from the combination of two product ingredients, is present normally, but less of it.

Frightening to parents, 574,000 bottles of Infants' TYLENOL® Oral Suspension were recalled in February 2012. Some parents found that the flow restrictor would be pushed into the bottle when the oral dosing measurement syringe was inserted.

The problems in children’s products caused U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to call William Weldon, Chairman of the Board and CEO, and Colleen A. Goggins Worldwide Chairman, Consumer Group, to Washington in September 2010. Weldon ceded the CEO role to Alex Gorsky in April 2012.

Packaging problems caused a recall of IMODIUM® products just two weeks ago. Some blister units have dents, pinholes, or tears. (May 2012)

Sudafed: a typographical error on the label, which incorrectly repeated the word "not" as follows: "do not not divide, crush, chew, or dissolve the tablet." (Feb 2011)

Rolaids: Rolaids are supposed to “spell relief,” but reportedly contained metal and wood particles from production at a third party manufacturer. (December 9, 2010)

More troubling are some recalls of vascular devices, hip replacement systems, and blood glucose test strips.

A vascular sheath was subject to fracture, which could cause perforation of blood vessels, requiring “unplanned open surgery.” (October 2009)

OneTouch® SureStep® Test Strips: Blood glucose levels test strips that gave false low results for glucose levels higher than 22.2 mmol/L. (February 2010)

Unpublished 2010 data from the National Joint Registry (NJR) of England and Wales shows a five-year “revision surgery” rate of approximately 12% for J&J's DePuy brand resurfacing system, higher than in other similar systems. DePuy must cover costs of monitoring and treatment for services, including surgeries, associated with the recalls. The company’s first quarter 2011 earnings cited $271 million in litigation and DePuy recall expenses. (August 2010, April 2012)

In the 2012 first quarter financial report, problems in the consumer OTC brands were cited as a drag on revenue -- manufacturing at a facility in Fort Washington, Pa., has been shut down for two years due to “ongoing efforts to enhance quality and manufacturing systems," and likely will be stopped until the end of 2013.

Newer products like Remicade are bolstering revenue and earnings, blunting the pain of lost revenue and increased expenses. And oddly, company surveys show that consumers still trust J&J. (Philadelphia Inquirer, April 18, 2012)

Copyright @ 2005-2014 by Karen Wilhelm