Girls in STEM - What Will It Take to Make STEAM More Appealing?
Engaging girls in STEM is vital in order to create a more inviting educational environment. STEM education is exciting and can lead to incredible careers. Understanding what it will take to bring more girls in STEM is critical.
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) fields are at the heart of what makes our modern society continue to advance and progress. However, they are typically composed of mostly males - women continue to be left out of this exciting and expanding industry. This needs to change. The work is rewarding, fulfilling, and lucrative for everyone.
Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce in 2016, according to the National Science Board. The National Center for Education Statistics found that only 18% of computer science undergrads are women and Microsoft discovered girl’s interest in STEM peaks in middle school, but quickly drops off because of a combination of social factors and lack of access. As more girls and young women retain a passion for STEAM, the more inclusive the industry will become and these statistics can start to improve.
To reverse the trend of women being left out of the STEM and STEAM workforce, there needs to be a fundamental shift of how education approaches STEAM subjects. It is critical that these subjects are appealing to girls and young women.
There are a few ways to accomplish this important goal.
Research shows that kids can understand and retain STEAM concepts, even at an early age. Encouraging girls and giving them the tools to explore STEAM subjects while they’re still young can have a massive impact on their impression of STEAM subjects and the different fields that require this education.
Offering girls a fun, engaging, and exciting way to participate in STEAM early on in their life will leave them feeling as though they belong, while enjoying the learning experience at the same time. This sense of belonging is vital to instill early in life. When more girls stick with their newly developed passion for STEM and STEAM, it creates a more inclusive environment for any girl or young women pursuing these degrees and jobs. With the renaissance happening in education today, there are products, lessons, activities , designed and available for everyone at any age to help accomplish this mission.
Role models and mentors are essential when it comes to encouraging girls to discover new opportunities and continuing to pursue their chosen path. Walking into a classroom or a person’s first internship and realizing they’re the only female in the room can be uncomfortable and disheartening. In fact, the study Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology Engineering, and Math found 47% of girls say they would feel uncomfortable being the only girl in a school group focused on STEM. However, with the right support, this first barrier can be hurdled and lead to a thriving career in STEM and STEAM and a more diverse workforce as a whole.
Women role models tend to be overlooked by the history books. Making an effort to showcase STEM pioneers like Barbara Askins – an American chemist that invented a method to enhance underexposed photographic negatives which is extensively used by NASA and the medical industry, Helen M. Blau – leader in the field of cellular reprogramming and holder of multiple patents in the field, Uma Chowdhry who developed new ceramic materials for the field of high-temperature superconductivity, Anita Borg – American computer scientist and founder of the Institute for Women and Technology and countless other women STEAM leaders throughout history, can instill the idea that STEM and STEAM is for everyone. Furthermore, young women having access to mentors to answer their questions, offer support, and guide them through their journey to pursue STEM and STEAM is an invaluable resource in making these fields appealing to girls.
Breakdown Outdated Stigmas
Changing society’s view about STEM and STEAM fields as a whole is no simple task. To elevate the cause, it will require involvement by everyone in these industries. Those currently in the STEM and STEAM workforce and educators laying the foundation for the leaders of the future will all need to play their part by giving girls access to STEM and STEAM education at an early age and continue supporting them as they progress through their educational career and beyond.
Encouraging more women to pursue and stick with STEM and STEAM fields isn’t a change that will happen overnight. Organizations like Stemettes.org and all the strong female role models and mentors in our society today are making incredible strides forward in putting to rest misconceptions about these industries, and in encouraging young women to stick with their interests to purse these fantastic careers. The future looks bright for women in STEAM.
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