Although it's been more than 100 years since famous female scientist Marie Curie won Nobel Prizes for her research on radiation, the American Association of University Women reports women’s progress in science, technology, engineering and mathematics has been slower than in other fields, such as business, law and medicine.

USD 373 would like to change that. The district recently sent several high school students and staff members to the annual Teen Women in Science and Technology conference at the Kansas State University branch in Salina. The one-day conference was designed to encourage young women to explore careers in science and technology.

"It is an opportunity to very efficiently use resources outside of our district to benefit our students," said school board member Barbara Bunting, who accompanied the students on the trip. "It exposes them to careers they might not have known about."

More than 300 participants attended the Jan. 11 conference. This was USD 373's first time to participate, and there was no cost to attend the event.

Bunting said the event not only introduced students to a college campus, it also gave them information about different career paths they could take. They were able to meet women who already have careers in science and technology, and also hear those women's success stories. They learned about the history of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and about how to respond to stereotypes and biases that may still exist.

Bunting hopes the district continues to send students and staff members to the conference in future years. She said the event helped to affirm the career choice of a senior who attended, and also introduced younger students to different opportunities.

"This is an excellent conference for a variety of students," she said. "... It exposes them to think about how else they could take their interests and turn them into a career."