“Women today hold 57 percent of professional jobs, but only 18 percent are thinking of the sciences,” said Farmer.
To help encourage women to STEM fields, Farmer says schools should provide rigorous and relevant courses in the STEM subjects, then recruit underrepresented students to attend these classes and have these classes count toward graduation as a math or science credit.
“Schools also can increase teacher professional development, expand teacher certification requirements to include STEM curriculum, invite women and minorities specifically to take these classes, and develop ways to recognize girls and minorities who take an interest in IT,” said Farmer.
But according to Kathryn Kailikole, director of the Louis Stokes Institute, inspiring low-income students to pursue a career in the STEM fields takes work.
“These students don’t trust the industry and STEM community research, and for good reason,” she said. “They don’t see it as for them.”
Citing her organization’s research, Kailikole revealed that only 13 percent of low-income students go on to receive a bachelor’s degree in STEM subjects.
“There are many reasons why this happens,” Kailikole said. “Students start the first day of college in debt—financial debt, academic debt, cultural capital debt, and social capital debt. Fifty to 60 percent of college freshmen leave their STEM majors, and trust me—throwing money at the problem does not help.”
She added: “While having someone come in and speak in the classroom is OK, low-income students need more—they need sustained mentoring, because many adults in their lives go in and out.”
Project Tomorrow Speak Up 2009 (PDF)
National Center for Women and Information Technology
Louis Stokes Institute
Note to readers:
Don’t forget to visit the Igniting and Sustaining STEM Education resource center. As the workplace changes and becomes increasingly global, today’s students must be educated with a 21st-century mindset. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills are no longer just “good skills” to have; they are increasingly vital to a 21st-century education—and students should begin cultivating these skills as early as possible. Go to:
Igniting and Sustaining STEM Education
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