News

7 ways to keep girls interested in STEM for the long haul

By Zulma Whiteford
December 18th, 2014

Just 15 percent of U.S. engineers are women. Here’s how to correct that statistic and get girls invested in STEM

girls-stemEngineering is empowering. It encompasses the ability to create whatever you can imagine and thereby change the world for the better. But in the United States, fewer than 15 percent of working engineers are women, despite comprising half of the population. There are a number of possible reasons for this inequality, but a variety of contributing factors take effect at an early age.

Consider that our culture encourages boys to play with construction toys, while girls are given dolls and are expected to be princesses. Boys are praised for being smart while girls are praised for being pretty. Children learn through play; by having the opportunity to build, boys are able to develop spatial reasoning skills in a way that girls aren’t. Classroom expectations also vary by gender; for instance, research has shown that math teachers call on boys far more often than girls.

We need more women to bring their talents and energy into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This process must begin in the elementary school classroom, because by the time they reach middle school it may be too late. Girls may already be discouraged about math and science from earlier negative experiences.

So, the question becomes, how can we encourage more young girls to become interested in careers in the STEM fields?

(Next page: eliminating bias, creating support structures, and other ways to encourage girls)