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To Be or Not to Be (A Scientist): We Must Ask Girls That Question
Episode 4124th August 2022 • Core Conversations • CoreLogic
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By the time they reach middle school, many girls are already convinced that they will not pursue a career in the sciences — at least in the stereotypical sense of the profession. So how can these girls see the potential that a science career holds beyond lab coats and experiments? They meet female scientists in-person whose degrees have led to work in a wide array of positions from communications to project management.

In this episode, host Maiclaire Bolton Smith sits down with Project Scientist Founder Sandy Marshall and CoreLogic's Project Scientist Liaison Trish Murray to discuss the link between this non-profit, STEM careers for women and CoreLogic’s integral support for this initiative.

Interested in supporting Project Scientist? Visit projectscientist.org or corelogic.com to learn more about CoreLogic's investment in STEM.

Transcripts

Maiclaire Bolton Smith:

Welcome back to Core Conversations: a CoreLogic Podcast, where we dive into the heart of what makes the property market tick. I’m Maiclaire Bolton Smith, your host and curious observer of all things related to property — from affordable housing to market trends and the impacts of natural disasters to climate change — I want to converse about it all.

Today, we're going to change pace just slightly and talk about something important to us here at CoreLogic — Project Scientist. Project Scientist is an organization that prepares young girls for a future in STEM, introducing them to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They do this by introducing girls to women who are already professionals in the field who can become role models. This initiative is not only important to the future generation, but it's also critical for organizations. That's why CoreLogic stepped up early as one of the flagship supporters of this program.

To discuss Project Scientist, what it means for the future of thousands of girls and to better understand CoreLogic's role in supporting this initiative, we have Project Scientist FI ounder Sandy Marshall and CoreLogic's Project Scientist Liaison Trish Murray. Trish and Sandy, welcome to Core Conversations!

Sandy Marshall:

Thank you.

Trish Murray:

Thank you.

MBS:

All right. So to get us started today, why don't you both start by telling our listeners a little bit about your background and your professional roles? So Trish, why don't we start with you as our Project Scientist liaison here at CoreLogic?

TM:

Absolutely. I've spent 20 years of my professional career at CoreLogic. CoreLogic is a business that's rooted in STEM. It's at our core, pardon the pun. I started my career in sales and account management in the data analytics business. I worked closely with our mortgage banking clients to understand their business problems. It was really fun. About 12 years ago, I transitioned to the science and analytics department where we have expanded from mortgage data analytics to data science for many asset classes, as well as introduce spatial and natural hazard modeling into our portfolio. I have a BA in Communication Studies from Sacramento State University, go Hornets, and my MBA from Saint Leo University. My formal education is, interestingly enough, it's very complementary to bring STEM solutions to market.

MBS:

Yeah, absolutely. And really, Trish, just at the heart of a lot of the science that we do have here at CoreLogic, which is why you are such a wonderful liaison to this project. So Sandy, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to be involved with Project Scientist?

SM:

Sure. Well, so excited to be here with you all and so grateful for your support of Project Scientist. We would not be able to do what we do without partners like CoreLogic and the STEM superstars, like you that inspire the girls. So thank you so much. I graduated from USC (University of Southern California) with a degree in public policy, but prior to going into that, I was pre-med and wanted to be a doctor like many girls and hit organic chemistry and tried that, I think, three times, finally gave up, and like so many women, if I had a dime for every woman I talked to that left the STEM major or field because of organic chemistry, I would probably retire. But lost my confidence and changed my major to public policy because I really wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to help people and thought I could do that through working in the non-profit field.

So I've worked in nonprofits for over 25 years from all the big organizations like American Heart, Easterseals, Special Olympics. And then I worked at NASCAR, started the NASCAR foundation...

MBS:

Oh wow.

SM:

...about 15 years ago, and while I was there, started to get NASCAR to invest in STEM projects and started to read about the absence of girls and women in STEM.

MBS:

Yeah.

SM:

Reflected on myself. And I had a four-year-old daughter who loves science, and one day walked into the office and said, "That's it. I'm starting a non-profit for girls in science." Because I didn't want my daughter to lose her confidence and her interest, and that's what started Project Scientist.

MBS:

Sandy, I got goosebumps when you just said that because this is something that's so near and dear to me and my heart, and I've always been involved in different things that have always helped, especially young girls, and really helped promote... There was something I did when I was in undergrad that was called Let's Talk Science, and it was this very similar about promoting science to young girls. So when I found out about Project Scientist, I'm like, "This is something." I'm just so proud of what you've done, and it's just so exciting that we can try and inspire the next generation especially of girls and in the sciences and in STEM fields. So let's keep going with you, Sandy, and can you tell us a little bit about Project Scientist and the idea behind it and tell us a little bit more about the organization.

SM:

Sure. Well, we're the only organization nationally to serve girls as young as four, five and six in the sciences, and that's because of the statistic that as young as four, five and six, both boys and girls are deciding that math and science are for boys. And so we want to grab that enthusiasm at that young age and continue girls to build up their confidence and interest in STEM. So, we actually serve girls ages 4 to 18 now. We'll be celebrating our 10-year anniversary in March. This summer, we're celebrating 10 years of serving girls.

MBS:

Wow.

SM:

And we should, at the end of this year, hit our milestone of serving 20,000 girls, and we'll be setting a new milestone for our organization. This year, we're entering into Mexico and really putting an effort into Spanish language both domestically and internationally, so everything we do in English now we are doing in Spanish. And we have a few programs happening right here in Orange County, one of them supported by CoreLogic with El Sol Academy, and it's a STEM program this summer that's 100% in Spanish.

MBS:

Wow.

SM:

And we also have a Spanish program running in Charlotte right now. Yeah, so our programs span from ages 4 to 18, and we have summer, after school and virtual programs, and we've definitely pivoted like most businesses with COVID, and it's actually helped us, the pivots we've made, to grow and actually serve more girls using technology and engaging women all over the country and the world.

MBS:

That is so great. And so you talked a little bit about your daughter and how that was partly why you started this. Is that really the reason why you chose to focus on girls or did you have other motivations as well that helped you focus on girls?

SM:

Well, when I was with NASCAR, I was part of a group called the National STEM Funders Collaborative and was able to read a lot about STEM and see why there's an absence of women in the STEM fields and at the various ages why we drop out and lose our confidence. And at the time the focus was on four, five and six, at least the research, but there weren't any programs focused on girls at that age, most of the programs were for middle school, which if we talk to girls at middle school, it's really almost too late because they've decided already, they've already opted out.

So, I really tried to find a program to bring to Charlotte to serve my needs as a mom.

MBS:

Yeah.

SM:

A full-time working mom and assumed there would be something out there because the research was driving us towards that young age.

MBS:

Yeah.

SM:

But nothing existed. So, I just had a need as a mom and a girl that liked science, a daughter that likes science and just filled that need. I had no idea it would be what it is today. I thought I would still be running the NASCAR Foundation and having this run out of my guest house at home with teachers, but it's definitely struck a chord with parents and girls.

Yeah. Just because it is, it's so amazing and phenomenal what you are doing. You did mention this year, how there is a Spanish-speaking program as well too. Are there particular populations of children that you try and reach? Is it specifically... Do you aim to get children from under-represented communities or is it just wide open to anybody that's interested?

SM:

That's been an evolution for us as an organization with COVID as well. When COVID happened and in education, the inequities that really popped up with low-income students versus wealthier students and what they had access to. As a board, we changed who we're serving and really put an effort into serving underserved students. So currently our model, of over 85% of the girls we serve come from under-resourced households, and they are allowed to come to our program through partners like CoreLogic, and that's really our focus right now. So girls ages 4 to 18. A lot of girls are served from Charlotte and Southern California because that's just where we started, but we are serving girls all over the country and even internationally now.

MBS:

That is just so great. How, I guess, a couple of things. How do you find the girls? Is it an application process? Are they hand-picked? How do they hear about you and how do you accept them into the program?

SM:

The model we have right now and that we're sticking with is we are working with non-profits and schools across the country and in Mexico where we layer into their summer or after-school programming. That's typically how it works. So they have the girls that they're sourcing from the under-resourced households, and then we layer into existing programs they already have.

We also serve girls at home that may not be back at school, maybe homeschooled due to a variety of reasons, so we have a completely virtual model for summer and after school.

MBS:

Okay.

SM:

And then we're doing a few new things this summer with CoreLogic and Trane Technologies where they're actually hosting our girls at their businesses. So, in Irving, Texas, we'll have girls there for a week in partnership with the local school district and foundation there, and so that'll be new for us, and that might be something that we really dig into going forward where girls actually get to be at a company for a week and do a really a deep dive with that company.

MBS:

Yeah. And we are thrilled to be a part of that as you expand into having somebody on-site at one of our facilities. So, that kind of leads over to CoreLogic. So Trish, can you talk a little bit about the history? I know we've done this for a number of years at CoreLogic. How did we get involved? Do you want to just give a little bit of the background?

TM:

Yeah, I think it was back in:

SM:

I'll just add on that you all set the bar so high with that first expedition that it's been the standard, really, the CoreLogic standard, as to how we execute those virtual expeditions. It was so great. Having a company like CoreLogic is so great for the girls because they don't really know you, right?

MBS:

Oh yeah.

SM:

So the girls in Irvine might see your building and your name on that huge building, but they have no idea what CoreLogic is or they've never really thought about it. And so that's always exciting for us as educators is for the girls to go on expeditions, it's awesome, but for them to go on expeditions with companies that are new to them and when there's a presence in the community with that company, so that they can start to have that relevance and start to see that as a career opportunity for them. It's a huge growth opportunity for them when they visit companies that maybe aren't as well-known in consumer products for them.

Yeah. I'm really glad you mentioned that, Sandy because I think that's really important because one thing that I've often encountered with young girls is: A) a scientist is somebody that's in a lab coat that works in a lab or does like... So for them to be exposed to so many different types of scientists and what scientists can do, and for somebody like me personally, who has... I have a postgraduate degree in physics. I have a very deep history in science, but I don't do hardcore science anymore for my job, but I need to have that scientific background to be able to do my job.

And I think for them to experience several women like myself and others who have science degrees that do a multitude of different things, it's really that eye-opening experience of what you can do with a science degree. And it's not just, well, I could work at Google or I could work at Microsoft. There are so many companies, some that they pass every day, that are filled with scientists, and they do all kinds of things. And I think that really getting into the expeditions that we did showed them, frankly, the really super cool stuff you can do with a science degree. So, yeah. Trish, do you want to tell us a little bit about the expeditions? Yeah.

TM:

The first year we were focused on trying to experiment with the girls, get them to understand how data can be worked with in an experimental fashion, right? So what we did was we took... we had this concept of build your dream home. And we used Google maps, which is a huge partner of CoreLogic, and the girls kind of explored virtually going around different parts of the country to understand what type of home they might build and then what features might be around the home and, ultimately, what natural hazards might occur. And depending on the type of home they have, the impact that hazard has had.

We introduced coding. We actually had...we used Scratch, I think, for the technology and had some code already pre-built to go through a simulation of what choices they'd made and outcomes, but then the girls were actually on the fly recoding in Scratch to modify the program to meet what they were interested in. So, that type of experience, hands-on with data and with natural hazards, that at CoreLogic we deal with every day, but putting it into a context that a young girl can understand, it was exhilarating for us. And watching the light bulbs go off on the cameras for the girls was just, it was something that anyone that was involved in it, frankly, couldn't wait until the next year for Project Scientist.

MBS:

I think that's so true. It's such an exciting thing for us to be a part of and just to inspire these young girls with this. So, okay. Let's talk a little bit more about these girls that we have helped over the years. How many are we talking? Over the long-standing relationship of CoreLogic and Project Scientist, how many girls have we supported through this ongoing relationship that we've had with Project Scientist?

SM:

Well, I think through the exposure of expeditions, starting with Pivotal Labs, we've probably had 300 girls, I'm assuming, that have experienced your company behind the scenes. And it might even be more when you think about the parent-family STEM nights that we do where anybody's invited to those. So I wish I had a better number for you, but I'm thinking 300 to 400 because I mean, I remember that first expedition to Pivotal Labs where we had our girls from LA there, and now we've been working with girls in Orange County, and now we're growing to working with girls in Texas. So the exposure alone to your company and the women at your company is probably 300 to 400. Through your financial contribution, we're able to serve under-resourced girls to attend our programs for free, and that's probably, we're probably at a hundred girls...

MBS:

Wow.

SM:

...Or more with that. Maybe after this summer, it's 200 girls that get to attend our program for free through this partnership.

MBS:

That's fantastic. I'm so glad that CoreLogic can make such an impact on so many young women by trying to inspire them as well. What about the parents and the families? How have they responded to Project Scientist in general, specifically some of the things that they've seen at CoreLogic?

SM:

Yeah. Well, I mentioned the parent nights. Those are always fun because it allows parents to see women that look like their daughters thriving in the space. And especially for parents that are local to where CoreLogic is, it gives them, again, that relevance of, "Oh, my daughter could actually work here." So, it's always great to hear the parents ask questions of the superstars and the people on those Zooms. "Where'd you go to school? What's your degree in?" And that's what we need because parents are the No. 1 Reason that girls stay in a STEM major or career is if the parents are validating their interest.

So those family nights and having CoreLogic females and professionals talk to the families about the awesome careers they have really, for us, goes back to the impact and keeping the girls on that path. And it starts interesting conversations at home too. So even when the girls have superstars that come to our sites from CoreLogic or when the girls go on virtual or in-person expeditions, we're informing the parents, "Your daughter met this person today from this company. Ask her this. They said that. She got to experience this at the expedition." And so for us, it's really starting those conversations at home with the families driving that conversation. And again, just validating their interests.

MBS:

It's so important because children are so easily influenced by their families, and I think their idea of what they want to do can so easily be turned on or turned off by their parents' involvement or their parents' interest, so I think just opening and exposing the parents to the variety of things is so important. So I love that Project Scientist exists, that it has this family night where the parents can come and ask questions too. It's one part that I've always loved doing with Project Scientist, so I'm so glad that's part of your program, Sandy.

TM:

Well, Maiclaire, I remember there were parents that asked questions that were complete stereotype assumptions of what a female scientist would experience in a corporate environment. And some of your answers to those questions were completely mitigating the concern about the stereotypes, right? They don't really kind of translate into at least the CoreLogic world. There's certainly places like CoreLogic that a female scientist can be completely successful.

And then you've also been honest about some of the challenges you've had and frankly, some of those that we are trying to mitigate through programs like Project Scientist. And that, to me, has been a really powerful part of the program, as well as just educating some of these parents that may not have experienced STEM in their work that they do every day, right?

MBS:

Yeah.

TM:

So they don't fully even understand how to grasp it, which, Sandy, it's so awesome that you mentioned that you send questions home to the parents so that the parents and the girls can really trigger some conversation around the dinner table. That's what makes Project Scientist so amazing is it's such a well-rounded program and with so many different perspectives.

MBS:

Yeah. I echo that as well, Trish. So, okay. Just to wrap up today — this is so great. I feel like we could just talk forever because we love this so much. We're all so passionate about this, but Sandy, what's next on the horizon for Project Scientist?

SM:

Well, we are continuing to grow. So, as I mentioned in March will be our official 10-year anniversary.

MBS:

Wow.

SM:

girls by:

MBS:

Absolutely.

SM:

And we're excited to see where this goes. We have two sites in Texas this summer, which we didn't expect, and so we're just continuing to grow to new markets and serve girls in an innovative way using technology. And, as I mentioned, we're going to Mexico this fall. So really filling some gaps that are out there for girls in STEM and looking for more partners to grow with us.

MBS:

And I know you will continue to grow, Sandy, because it's just such an amazing program. And hopefully this podcast will inspire other people to become a part of Project Scientist as well too.

SM:

Yeah.

MBS:

So yeah, Trish, I know CoreLogic will continue to support this organization as it progresses. It's just way too important to us, and there's so many of us here that are just so passionate about it, but what do you think the involvement will look like from CoreLogic moving forward?

TM:

Well, it's funny because I made some notes before today's podcast, and Sandy has just reiterated what all my notes said, particularly around this question. Sandy, you've heard us say this before that at CoreLogic, Project Scientist Week is the favorite week of the year, right? That's almost the theme for the volunteer meetings is: we're building up to the favorite week of the year, which is Project Scientist.

MBS:

Definitely.

TM:

And we are committed like you said, and what we love is this constant evolution of programming that Sandy has described in nearly every answer. We love being a part of that innovation and that evolution, bringing Project Scientists to Irving, Texas, through the Irving Schools Foundation this year and introducing the girls to the Discovery Center, which is an opportunity to interact with our data visualizations and virtual reality in-person.

This is just wild. Hosting girls for five days. I grew up in a blue-collar family, and I can't imagine going into one of those big buildings on the side of the freeway for five days and entering just as I am an employee, right? How inspiring might that be at six? That's what we're doing this year. That's different than what we did last year. We just continue to evolve and innovate together, and that's what we do at CoreLogic, right? We never stop innovating. So I just imagine that it's just going to completely continue to evolve as such, and that's one of the things that's so special about this partnership.

MBS:

It is so special, and I do hope that we continue to inspire so many young girls on their path to becoming future scientists. So Trish, Sandy, thank you so, so much for joining me today on Core Conversations: A CoreLogic Podcast.

TM:

Thanks for having me.

SM:

Thank you. Thanks to all the CoreLogic volunteers. Thank you so much.

MBS:

And thank you for listening. I hope you've enjoyed our latest episode. Please remember to leave us a review and let us know your thoughts and subscribe wherever you get your podcast to be notified when new episodes are released. And thanks to the team for helping bring this podcast to life. Producer, Jessi Devenyns, editor and sound engineer, Romie Aromin, and social media duo Sarah Buck and Makaila Brooks. Tune in next time for another core conversation.