Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are the specific disciplines that make up the education acronym S.T.E.M. These fields are deeply intertwined with the real world and research shows that focus in these areas is how students learn most effectively. A student who’s studies are rooted in STEM is more likely to be an innovator and a critical thinker all while making meaningful connections between school, community, work and global issues. Did you know that women make up only 13% of the STEM workforce? It’s true. Can you imagine why that is? Well, it is learned early on in life that certain things are for boys and others are for girls. For instance, a trip to a toy store will reveal the toys suitable for boys include science kits, building blocks, cars and computers. The girl toys are dolls, stuffed teddy bears and homecare toys like a baking oven. By the time children start school, they’re sure of the fact that boys and girls don’t like the same things. Parents, teachers, society and the media have helped in creating these misconceptions, whether consciously or not, and it is directly related to studies that show women still lag far behind men in both STEM education and hiring. How do we encourage and influence girls to follow their interest in STEM subjects?
Encouragement and Enthusiasm
Encourage your child’s curiosity in all areas and subjects. We all try to avoid that pesky “why?” when dealing with children but the answers to these questions is your child’s way of uncovering the bells and whistles of the world around them. A recent article on www.usnews.com shares how parents play a crucial part in attracting girls to STEM. In the article, Andrea Beatty best-selling author of “Rosie Revere, Engineer” and other children’s books suggested to point out science everywhere. “If you have a can opener, talk to your kid: Look, it’s a can opener; who made that? An engineer probably made that. Grow plants with your kids, and call them a botanist when they do it. You are a zoologist, you are taking part of the dog or the cat or the fish. Make them feel important about what they do and make the conversation important, and they will follow your lead.”
Commend them on questions, their exploration and their abilities and particularly praise the effort they put in. By teaching children not to fear failure, they’re more willing to try again if something doesn’t work the first time. Research has shown that girls are prone to view failure as a bad thing instead of an opportunity to try again. Also, they regularly underestimate their own abilities and knowledge when compared to others. This is where encouragement and enthusiasm play a vital role.
Provide Mentors and Show Female Role Models
In STEM, there are countless women making strides within their fields. They’re just not as apparent and celebrated as men are. Share with children who these women are through programs like FabFems. Created by The National Girls Collaborative Project, it presents an information clearinghouse for women in STEM careers and offers a database of names and contact information for role models and women who would like to share education and STEM career advice. By showing girls that careers in STEM are possible, they are more open to pursuing their interests and following this path because they can see firsthand other women who are doing it successfully. Through focusing on these areas, our society can be armed with more women in STEM careers than ever before. We must help girls realize that STEM subjects are applicable to anyone because it is relevant and essential to their everyday lives. Teach them to be assertive individuals that can express interest in these subjects and ask for help when needed. Remind them that failure isn’t a bad thing and shape their mindsets around being equal to boys to help encourage their interest in STEM subjects. ______________________________ At MathSP, we’re committed to STEM fluency and igniting a passion in our students through STEM-focused academic coaching. We accomplish this by:
- Equipping students with a true understanding of the concepts at work.
- Opening their eyes to the fact that STEM is a way of seeing the world.
- Empowering them with a “math state of mind.”
- Building their confidence as self-sufficient, lifelong learners.