Girls Run the World: How Educators are Involving More Women in STEM
Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) determines our standard of living, from the way food is produced, to communications to the safety of infrastructure. The healthcare, energy, transportation, and defense industries also depend upon STEM-trained workers. Though 50 percent of the U.S. workforce is female, less than 20 percent of the STEM workforce are women.
The pipeline for filling these jobs in the future rests on education. Though girls are known to gravitate toward careers that benefit society, they often turn away from STEM careers due to lack of encouragement in primary and secondary school. What are educators doing to solve this problem?
Highlighting the Contributions of Women
The number one reason girls and young women drop out of STEM education is a lack of role models and mentors. Teaching the history of women’s contributions to science and technology, from Marie Curie, to Sally Ride is an effective way to show girls that anything is possible. Showing how these women overcame gender discrimination, unequal pay, and lack of recognition to make groundbreaking discoveries can inspire girls to make their own contributions.
Partnering With Professional Organizations
Grass roots participation from elementary schools through college is key to getting girls into the STEM pipeline. Educators are reaching out to groups like the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) for support. According to a student recipient of a USC master of science in applied psychology online, SWE provides hands-on, volunteer guidance and mentor-ship, both in the classroom and at national events like the FIRST Robotics competition, the Girl Scouts LEGO Queens competition and the annual White House Science Fair, to name a few. At the college level, many STEM-related societies have regional chapters where women STEM undergraduates can support each other, find mentors, and exchange ideas.
Funding to Strengthen Curriculum and Reward Scholarship
Educators are also seeking funding through Washington to support more scholarships and change the culture of university curricula to make them more welcoming, especially for girls in underrepresented communities. Advocacy for women in STEM at the highest levels of government is building as a result of a five-year STEM initiative spearheaded by the current administration. The goal of this initiative is to prepare 100,000 K-12 STEM teachers to educate the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
Women in STEM fields make, on the average, 33 percent more than women in non-STEM professions. In today’s economy, that number makes a big difference to a family’s income and quality of life. Better participation for women in STEM can only benefit our economy and our society.