The Importance of Girls and STEM
Post written by Shalini Patel, Co-Founder and Maya Corrin
As explained in Ronald Burke and Mary Mattis’ book, Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, by the age of 12 girls have an established idea of the subjects in which they excel and the subject in which they do not. STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) are typically in the latter category. The American Association of University Women found that girls do not lack in competence in STEM fields (high school boys and girls perform equally), but rather curriculum and society are arranged in a way that discourages interest. This negative environment is built off of negative stereotypes and false feelings of inadequacy.
Oftentimes girls struggle to connect STEM subjects to their “real life” making it seem to be irrelevant. But the notion of irrelevancy couldn’t be further from the truth. It is our job to make all girls realize the relevancy of science and math and their ability to master and manipulate it to create their world. 74% of teenage girls reported to a Girl Scouts of America study that they are interested in STEM. However the teenage girls studied by Girl Scouts also pointed out severe barriers to STEM participation:
- 57% say girls their age don’t typically consider STEM careers
- 47% say they would feel uncomfortable as the only girl in a group or class
- 57% say if they entered a STEM career they would have to work harder to be thought of as seriously as men
An all-girls environment can be incredibly supportive to a girl interested in STEM. An all-girls program will surround girls with engaged peers and help to build their self-confidence while furthering their STEM skills. Logically, the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools reports, graduates of girls’ schools are three times more likely to enter engineering fields. An all-girls school is an environment free of stigma and that promotes confidence and exploration.
It is not just the girls who would benefit from participating and contributing to a STEM field. As with any field, a lost perspective is a lost opportunity for advancement. A female perspective brings new light and new considerations into technological advancement. As the Anita Borg Institute writes on its website, “We envision a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies they build it for.” A woman would make sure women are included—whether it’s in a clinical study or in designing a new technologies that are useful or customized to female-specific needs.
Whether we like it or not STEM fields are historically and currently male-dominated. We must nurture, protect, encourage, and harness girls’ interest in STEM fields so that they are not deterred or intimidated by the “boy’s club” that is science. We must give them female mentors, show them real-world application, and let them collaborate with each other. Let our girls choose to follow a path in another field because they want to and not because they feel that they have to. Open up every possibility for girls to seize and every industry for them to revolutionize.