My Story: Empowering Women Since 2013

Coffee and a Conversation

It all started with coffee and a conversation...

Hi there!  I'm Kara, a mechanical engineer who has served as a mentor to high school girls since 2013. I started STEM Savvy Brew because coffee has been an important catalyst for change in the lives of my students.  I had no idea that inviting a group of girls to a local coffee shop and having the courage to be open and honest about my struggles would lead to fundamental changes in how I impact my students and my community of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).  Now, with every purchase, 10% of the profits from this store are used to build confidence in young girls who are active in after-school hands-on STEM programs.

My primary avenue for mentoring students is through FIRST Robotics on nights and weekends.  FIRST Robotics is a world-wide non-profit STEM educational program where students work side-by side with industry professionals, like me, after school to build a competitive 120lb robot.

FIRST Robotics Mentor

I realized that much of my time was spent teaching technical skills and there was little time for personal conversations.  In 2017, I read Brene Brown's book, Daring Greatly, and realized that sharing vulnerabilities with people who have earned the right to hear it is a meaningful way to build trust and relationships.  I decided to host frequent meet ups at a local coffee shops with any interested girls on the team.

These coffee shop meet ups evolved into the creation of a club called the Gearbox Girls.  At Gearbox Girls meetings, I create a dedicated safe space where my students and I share things we have learned, advice and communicate when we are struggling as well as work together toward sustaining more girls in STEM.

I discovered that intentionally opening up about my own experiences with sexism in the workplace, micro-aggressions, harassment, self-doubt, perfectionism and more, my students were more likely to reach out for help when they had similar experiences.

NASA Chariot Rover and FIRST Robotics Mentor

This discovery was a game changer for me.  This goes far beyond teaching engineering principles, machining, public speaking and marketing.  Only 30% of women are still in the workforce as engineers 20 years into their careers even though women are found to be equally capable in math and science fields.

I can see why.

It's critical that in addition to helping young girls build marketable skills, we help them breakdown stereotypes, negative self-talk and societal norms that prevent them from trying new things and talking about their struggles.  Yep, that's me in a yellow ball gown in the picture below teaching a four year old girls about robots at our first Princesses with Power Tools event.  How's that for combating societal norms!

Oh, did I mention that guys are also voluntary members of the Gearbox Girls?  That's because it's everyone's responsibility to help create a more inclusive work environment.  And this starts by listening to other people's perspectives and actively working to make changes for the better.  I believe in teaching students how to empower each other.  So, gentlemen, I see you out there supporting us!  Thank you for your authenticity and keep rocking it!

FIRST Robotics Mentor Princess with Power Tools STEM Savvy Brew

The Gearbox Girls club has now grown significantly, with initiatives that reach young girls world-wide.  To this day, each Gearbox Girls meeting includes coffee.  This coffee shop, STEM Savvy Brew, is a tribute to my students and all women out there pushing through barriers and looking for quality coffee to help them conquer the toughest challenges of their day.

During the pandemic, my opportunities for mentoring became limited.  I decided to create STEM Savvy Brew as an online coffee shop dedicated to empowering women and offering quality specialty coffee.

A minimum of 10% of all profits from this store directly benefit STEM educational non-profit organizations that provide hands-on STEM activities for young girls.  In addition, I believe in supporting women in the coffee industry.  Coffee farmers and distributors are struggling through a coffee crisis resulting from a reduction in favorable growing conditions and low wages world-wide in part caused by climate change.  To combat this, I donate annually to the International Women's Coffee Alliance.

Thank you for choosing STEM Savvy Brew and continuing your support for empowering women.  Together, we are making a difference, one bag of coffee at a time!

For more information on the Gearbox Girls (a site built and maintained by my students) visit their amazing website here.

Girls Get Together and Get Coffee