Closing the Gender Gap in STEM

A Five-Part Series and Report

Join the KC STEM Alliance in this five-part series of conversations to explore the ways our region is moving to close the gender gap in STEM by focusing on efforts in K-12 education.

Moderated by Dr. Margery Sendze, the interactive series looks at key influences and success stories at each stage of STEM education—from kindergarten through high school. Panelists include community and corporate partners, mentors, parents, teachers, students and women with STEM careers.

In the first of five conversations about how our community is engaging girls in STEM during their journey through K-12, Cindy Wallis-Lage, Water President at Black & Veatch, provides the keynote on the power of a moment.

Elementary School

In part two of the Closing the Gender Gap webinar series, we team up with Kansas City Public Schools’ Ericka Mabion for a keynote on educating and empowering girls during their elementary school years.

Ericka is a passionate advocate for STEM, technology integration and helping fellow educators create engaging project-based learning experiences. She discovered the benefits of integrating technology while teaching special needs and English Language Learners. She has a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Capella and is a Project Lead The Way-Lead Teacher/Trainer, Google Certified Trainer, Digital Learning Coach and credentialed to provide professional development for ​​ and Scratch.

After Ericka’s keynote, moderator Dr. Margery Sendze leads a conversation with a panel that includes:

  • Tammy Buckner, CEO and founder of We Code KC;
  • Girl Scout Ashlyn Dean;
  • NASA Langley Research Center aerospace engineer Alicia Dyer Ciancolo; and
  • Joy Wheeler, CEO of Girls Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri.

Middle School

The conversation about closing the gender gap in STEM continues with a focus on supporting girls through the middle school years.

Suzanne Weeks, a parent and robotics team coach for the all-girls Probots FIRST Tech Challenge team, gives the keynote. Panelists include:

  • Suzanne’s daughter, Maddie;
  • Christina Chandler, a computer science teacher, robotics coach and regional FIRST LEGO League partner;
  • Gena Schleimer, STREAM and Innovation Lab Coordinator at St. Agnes;
  • Perla Weaver, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Computing Sciences and Information Systems at Johnson County Community College; and
  • Ragan Gum, a Cerner software engineer and STEM advocate active in the Society of Women Engineers.

Dr. Margery Sendze returns as the moderator.

The High School Years

This episode of the Closing the Gender Gap in STEM webinar series focuses on the high school experience. Recent Independence School District graduate Carrie Robinson shares the keynote as she prepares to take the STEM skills she developed in high school to Wichita State, where she will study engineering technology with a concentration in civil/environmental engineering.⁠ Joining Carrie for the roundtable discussion moderated by Dr. Margery Sendze: ⁠

  • Haley Loftis, a staff electrical engineer in the Energy Division at Burns & McDonnell; ⁠
  • Beth McCarthy, College & Career Program Coordinator for PREP-KC; ⁠
  • Dr. Cheryl Cooper, a cybersecurity awareness and education consultant who works for a major telecom company; ⁠
  • Maria Franco, a UMKC mechanical engineering student who works at the Hispanic Development Fund; and ⁠
  • Angie Ladwig, Technical Manager of Systems Engineering at Honeywell and a girls in STEM advocate and volunteer. ⁠

What's Next?

This conversation wraps up a five-week series about how to close the gender gap in STEM by focusing on the K-12 journey.

Keynote speaker is Natalie Lewis, a chemical engineer, educator, former school board member and education advocate.

Joining her:

  • Lindsay Schmidt, founder of STEMM FIRE Foundation;
  • Karen Stohlmann Henderson, teacher at Blue Valley Northwest High School;
  • Chayanne Sandoval-Williams; Grandview High grad and computer science student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute;
  • electrical engineer Angela Oguna Oruoch; and
  • Natalie Self, executive director of STEMSTL.


These resource lists organized by age group include books, movies, activities and inspiring girls and women to follow as we work together as a community to encourage girls to explore and engage in STEM learning.

Elementary School

Closing the Gender Gap in STEM 

Middle School

Closing the Gender Gap in STEM

High School

Closing the Gender Gap in STEM