U.S. schools must increase efforts to engage girls in STEM

girls-STEMSchool leaders and policy makers know that including STEM skills in students’ education is a vital part of ensuring that the U.S. remains able to compete on a global level. Statistics reveal that despite efforts to boost interest in STEM education and careers, girls are not as engaged as they could be—but a number of stakeholders are aiming to change that as they come up with creative ways to engage girls in STEM.

Traditionally, “women, blacks, and Hispanics are less likely to be in a science or engineering major at the start of their college experience, and less likely to remain in these majors by its conclusion,” according to a September 2013 Census report by Liana Christin Landivar, which focuses on disparities in STEM occupations.

The number of female STEM workers has increased since the 1970s, Landivar notes, but women are still underrepresented in engineering and computer occupations, which account for more than 80 percent of STEM employment. In fact, since the 1990s, women’s participation in computer science careers has declined.

Men are employed in STEM positions twice as much as women, and almost 1 in 5 female science and engineering graduates are out of the labor force today.

The solution to improving this, many say, is to engage young girls in STEM fields, and then figure out how to sustain their interest in college.

Girls in elementary school enjoy science as much as boys do, and girls and boys score equally on the high school Advanced Placement computer science exam, according to a September compilation of data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the National Center for Women in Information Technology, the Girl Scout Research Institute, and The American Association of University Women.

(Next page: How to increase girls’ STEM interest)