2022 Grants Challenge

Knocking Barriers Down to Build Girls Up

Idea by DemoChicks

DemoChicks advances gender equity and women’s empowerment by breaking down barriers for girls and women of color to pursue nontraditional careers in the STEAM subfields of architecture, construction, and engineering (ACE). We empower, enlighten, and elevate girls and women aged 7-25 by providing: hands-on, project-based learning in ACE concepts; mentorship from ACE leaders directly, and by visiting work sites to see their expertise in action; and scholarships to support the pursuit of ACE-focused college degrees.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

K-12 STEAM Education

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

A 2017 LA County Status of Women report showed that poverty declined for every group of women except Latinas and African-American women. Roughly 1 in 3 homeless individuals are women. Overrepresented in poverty, women of color are underrepresented in high-wage STEM fields nationally. Latina/Black/Indigenous women comprise 17% of the US population, but only 14% of STEM degrees. Women earn 57% of bachelor's degrees in all fields, yet only 22%- Engineering, 21%-Physics, and 20%-Computer Science degrees. Women make ~$15,000 less than men in STEM fields; Latina/Black women make ~$33,000 less. Women comprise 48% of the workforce, but only 34%-STEM, 26%-computer/math workforce, and 16%-engineering. DemoChicks disrupts these statistics via education, mentorship, and exposure for girls/women to pursue high-earning careers. We also address disparities shown by COVID19 of Black women and Latinas’ concentration in low-wage, service jobs, which contributed to high rates in communities of color.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

DemoDiscovery Summer Camp: Transcending the traditional classroom, DemoDiscovery camp will be a week of hands-on, and immersive ACE exposure for 20 high school-aged girls on a college campus and construction site. The camp will include: Training sessions in an engineering and architecture lab; mentor sessions from ACE leaders; a visit to a construction site and opportunity to see ACE leaders in action; concluding with a Think-A-Thon where girls work together on an ACE project, present to a judging panel comprised of ACE leaders. DemoChicks (DC) On-Line: In 10 monthly sessions, girls (7-13) receive and apply hands-on instruction in ACE concepts. Sessions include an active ACE professional who shares about their career journey and the concepts they use daily. The session ends with the girls constructing a demolition ball model or conducting a chemical reaction using items that every home typically has or supplies shipped from DC. These sessions allow the girls to apply concepts learned and envision themselves as capable ACE leaders. Unlike most STEM education which focuses broadly on these concepts, DemoChicks uniquely focuses on architecture, construction, and engineering (ACE) which are critical fields to address homelessness and the climate emergency via building decarbonization and increasing housing density to lessen sprawl that causes driving-led carbon emissions. DemoChicks’ programs will position girls to gain economic empowerment and lead in these essential fields.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Our short-term vision for this program is that girls and women gain more knowledge about the endless career possibilities in ACE fields. From seeing women who mirror their backgrounds and identities, we hope our participants gain the belief that they can capably and competently enter and succeed in these fields. From the friendships forged with peers and mentors, we hope that girls and women have supportive colleagues and cheerleaders who they rely on for advice and encouragement. Our long-term vision is that our efforts change L.A. County’s disheartening statistics about women’s entrenched poverty. In 2017 L.A. County reported that “More than 41,000 domestic violence-related calls for assistance were made by women.” Since a woman’s ability to flee domestic violence is influenced by financial stability, economic empowerment is essential to a woman’s safety. We hope that L.A. County is changed by women leading in ACE fields and are able to access wider life choices.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

DemoChicks is seeking to expand our DemoChicks On-Line program to broaden our reach to more girls and young women in the County of Los Angeles and to offer in-person activities to supplement online learning. With this program, we will take girls to construction sites and/or ACE-oriented field trips like the Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). At these locations, girls will be exposed to the components and layers of building design, construction, and the engineering process, which will enhance the foundation of learning they receive during DemoChicks On-Line. In less than two years, we served 247young women and girls. This reach included participants in our industry days and panel discussions; our DemoChicks On-Location program (before transitioning online). Most importantly, in surveys gauging students’ experiences in our online programs, youth surveyed consistently indicate that their “knowledge on the topic was increased” and they “learned a lot” during the session.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 45

Indirect Impact: 800