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New Survey on Gender Inequality in STEM Education Underscores Critical Need for Learning and Mentorship Opportunities to Prepare Young Women for the 21st Century Workforce

The Exelon Foundation and the United Nations (UN) Women HeForShe launch inaugural STEM Innovation Leadership Academy to advance gender equality and develop a pipeline of future leaders

CHICAGO — A new survey conducted by the Exelon Foundation shows that only 50 percent of the next generation of women remain optimistic about the future of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In fact, nearly six times as many high school girls believe companies view men as more qualified for STEM jobs than women.  

As part of Exelon’s ongoing efforts to empower young women and advance gender equality, the Exelon Foundation, with the UN Women HeForShe initiative, is launching its inaugural STEM Innovation Leadership Academy for teen girls in Chicago, followed by the launch of a second academy in Washington, D.C.  With only 15 percent of high school girls in the U.S. expressing interest in STEM majors or careers – compared with 40 percent of high school boys1  – the week-long immersive STEM Innovation Leadership Academy is designed to provide hands-on learning and mentorship opportunities. 

“The City of Chicago continues to set the national standard for STEM education, and we are committed to providing all students, regardless of gender, with the skills and confidence they need to succeed in the 21st century,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Initiatives such as the STEM Innovation Leadership Academy provide access to real-world experiences and mentorship opportunities that are vital to empowering our future female leaders here in Chicago and around the world.”

The Chicago STEM Innovation Leadership Academy, which will take place July 15-21 at the Illinois Institute of Technology, will bring together nearly 50 young women ages 16 to 19 for engaging interactive experiences, field trips and conversations with leaders in STEM fields, including one-on-one mentorship opportunities with Exelon executives Chris Crane, president and CEO, and Amy Best, senior vice president & chief human resources officer, as well as other Chicago based leaders, including Melissa Bean, chairman of the Midwest for JP Morgan Chase & Co.; LaTanya McDade, chief education officer of Chicago Public Schools; Anne Pramaggiore, CEO of Exelon Utilities; and Celena Roldan, CEO of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. 

The STEM Innovation Leadership Academy will also include several energy-focused workshops, led by the National Energy Education Development Project (NEED), as well as visits to Exelon Generation’s Dresden Generating Station for a hands-on experience in the plant’s simulator control room and to the Museum of Science & Industry. Finally, a STEM-focused competition will challenge participants to redesign sustainable versions of Chicago’s iconic parks for a chance to win a nominal cash prize.  

“By creating opportunities for young women to learn about and pursue STEM-related careers, we are nurturing the next generation of leaders,” said Crane. “Initiatives such as the STEM Innovation Leadership Academy empower female students through education and mentorship, enhance our workforce through diversity and equality and ultimately foster fundamental change and a brighter future for all.”

The STEM Innovation Leadership Academy is just one component of Exelon’s three-year commitment to the HeForShe initiative, to which the company’s charitable foundation has made a $3 million commitment. Launched by UN Women in 2014, HeForShe was created to foster a movement with a systematic approach and targeted platform where men can become agents of change for gender equality. In 2017, Exelon President and CEO Chris Crane was named one of HeForShe’s Thematic Champions, a program that recognizes global leaders who stand out as visionaries for gender equality and women’s empowerment. 

In 2017, Exelon contributed a total of $10.3 million to education-related causes. In addition to the company’s investment in STEM programs for young women and girls, Exelon’s partnership with HeForShe also includes a commitment to improving the company’s retention of women by 2020, with a goal of reaching parity in voluntary turnover of men and women professionals.

To learn more about Exelon’s initiatives to promote gender equality and support the communities where its employees live and work, visit

(1)®/STEMconnector Cooperative Research Program (2015)




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