Indianapolis is fortunate to be home to numerous life sciences companies. And while I have the pleasure of working with many women in those organizations, the stark reality is that women make up less than 25% of the workforce in STEM jobs.

This month the American Heart Association will hold its fourth annual Go Red Goes STEM event for local high school girls as part of our effort to increase the number of women in STEM careers. The event allows girls to fuel their passion for STEM by exposing them to hands-on experiences by local women in a variety of fields that require science, technology, engineering and math, including aviation, engineering, banking, construction, the environment and much more. And, of course it also exposes them to the field of medicine and the types of life-saving research the American Heart Association is known for.

STEM is important to the AHA because heart disease remains the leading cause of death among women – responsible for one of every three women’s deaths. But historically women have been left out of studies and left behind in care. Women have been unaware, underrepresented, uncounted and untreated.

Now we are fighting for better representation in medical research. Fighting for equitable access to care and treatments. Fighting to spread lifesaving information to our sisters. Fighting to overcome the statistic that cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women. And fighting for more girls to develop a passion for STEM so they can make their impact on the future.

You can play a part in increasing opportunities for women and girls in STEM careers. Encourage them to follow their passion. Encourage them to challenge themselves. And take the opportunity to mentor them as they pursue their dreams.

I’m grateful to know so many women in STEM careers in Indianapolis, including many of our board members and Go Red for Women volunteer leaders, but we need to continue to develop more and more leaders like them as we fight to help everyone live longer, healthier lives.

For more information about the AHA’s STEM program, visit www.heart.org/indianapolis.