How To Encourage Girls To Pursue Careers in STEM
- Play and Experimentation
- Women Role Models
- Creative Aspects
- Skills Focus
Getting girls interested in STEM careers is a major goal of many schools, employers, organizations and other women who work in STEM. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math, and these are all areas in which women are underrepresented. By getting girls interested in STEM early, educators, business leaders, and lawmakers hope the ranks of women scientists and engineers will grow in the years ahead.
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1. Play and Experimentation
Boys often get the opportunity to play and experiment in ways that lead to the necessary skills and curiosity for a STEM career that girls do not. For example, it is still more likely that boys will be shown how to take apart and repair cars than girls will. Girls should be given the chance to use all types of tools in their play. This includes the opportunity to spend time with computers and learning how to code as well as using physical tools.
One way to bring more girls into environments where they have access to tools and computers is to make those environments more welcoming to them. An article in the Washington Post reported that a study found female students as interested in computer science as male students when environments were made more female-friendly. This was true online as well. Another study found that simply having more classmates in an online environment who were female increased women’s performances in those classrooms.
3. Women Role Models
Role models are an important element of getting girls interested in STEM careers. Mentoring, speaking on panels, writing articles, teaching and even using social media, such as Twitter, are all ways that women can show girls what their lives in STEM fields are like. The Washington Post article addresses this as well, pointing out that STEM classes are nearly always taught by men. Girls may thrive in environments where they are taught STEM subjects by women.
4. Creative Aspects
One misconception that keeps girls away from STEM fields is the idea that working in STEM is all about using rigorous math and science. However, STEM is actually about creative problem solving, and emphasizing the role of creativity can get girls interested in STEM careers who might not otherwise have been. An article in Inc. points out that interest in STEM can be stimulated by incorporating it into girls’ existing hobbies.
5. Skills Focus
Artistic skills can be as important as analytical skills in STEM success, and demonstrating this can make STEM careers more interesting to girls. One important skill for anyone going into STEM is visual-spatial skills, and developing these skills can be encouraged in a number of ways including puzzles or map-reading. Girls can also be encouraged to problem solve as well as work on important noncognitive skills such as organization and perseverance.
Study after study finds that when the playing field is leveled and efforts are made to create environments that are specifically welcoming to girls, their interest in STEM careers grows. Encouraging girls’ interest in STEM careers is important in making sure that all girls have the same opportunities as boys to thrive in these areas and to make the same valuable contributions as their male counterparts.