How to Inspire Girls in STEM Education
Imagine driving a car with only two wheels. Now imagine driving tomorrow’s innovations and economy with a fraction of our talents in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
According to statistical data from the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up 47% of the total workforce, but they hold only 27% of the high-paid, rewarding positions in science and engineering in the United States. The good news is we can help change those numbers tomorrow by encouraging more girls in STEM-related subjects today.
Here are a few ideas for how to encourage female students to pursue STEM.
- Promote a growth mind-set toward STEM subjects. As we’ve discussed before, teaching students that intelligence can change over time improves learning attitudes and outcomes across the board. But it’s especially important when it comes to math and science, subjects where negative cultural stereotypes have implanted false ideas about innate, gender-based, or race-based abilities. Experiments show these “stereotype threats” directly impair women’s and girls’ interests and aspirations in math and science—even when they have clear abilities in those areas. So emphasize to your student that math and science skills develop over time through effort and perseverance.
- Expose your student to female and minority role models in the STEM field. A positive example is one of the best ways to disprove a negative stereotype. So arm yourself with great stories about outstanding female and minority scientists, mathematicians, and inventors. Meet subject matter experts from diverse fields and backgrounds through our online clubs or our Science and Technology Networks. Be sure to ask your school counselor about our weekly national counseling LiveLesson sessions, where students will find a plethora of information about college readiness and career paths.
- Help your student develop spatial skills. Spatial skills are important in engineering and other STEM fields, but boys consistently outperform girls in tests for these skills—partly due to the differences in toys they’re given. So don’t think of Legos, construction sets, and 3-D video games as toys for boys. Think of them as gender-neutral tools for helping boys and girls develop the spatial skills needed to excel in STEM. Again, make sure to explain that spatial skills can be developed over time.
- Encourage your student to participate in STEM-related clubs and hands-on learning experiences. Connections Academy offers a variety of clubs to help build STEM skills—from robotics to gaming technology to the Math Olympiad. 4-H Clubs around the country offer hands-on activities designed to inspire students in STEM. There’s plenty to choose from, so help your student find a fun, skill-building activity that fits his or her interest.
Source: “Special Report: Educating Americans for the 21st Century.” April 18, 2013″. Smithsonian.com.
Learn more about STEM education and where it can take your student in the 21st Century with this interactive infographic from Smithsonian Magazine. Then share how you’re encouraging your STEM-savvy student in the comments below!