Women represent less than 25% of the STEM workforce. Girls' impressions of science, math and engineering start early - in elementary school.
What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym referring to the academic disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEM education includes incorporating the study of engineering into the traditional subject areas, beginning as early as elementary school. Incorporating hands-on learning enables students to see the real-world application and importance of STEM in the world around us.
Today, women are particularly underrepresented in these key disciplines, according to the US government. Furthermore, the percentage of women in STEM jobs has not increased since 2000.
"I think that since the fall lessons I have become more confident in science and think that I will always want to continue these epic experiments."
- 4th grade girl
How can we make an impact?
According to the Forbes article "STEM Fields and the Gender Gap: Where Are the Women?", one of the ways we can promote female advancement in the STEM fields is:
"Rework the K-12 curriculum. An interest in science and technology needs to be cultivated at a young age, but many women are standing on the sidelines as the boys participate in science fairs. K-12 educators should work to encourage young girls to pursue opportunities in STEM by offering more hands-on workshops for girls to learn about science and technology. Schools should also consider bringing female engineers to talk to students about their profession and reach out to young girls."
Girl-centered STEM programs can help inspire and increase future generations to pursue degrees and professions in these disciplines. Job growth in STEM positions over the past 10 years has been 3 times greater than non-STEM jobs according to a US Department of Commerce report. While the employment opportunities are there, the women aren't.
Between 2010 and 2020, STEM-related employment is projected to increase by 16.5% to over 8.5 million jobs. Yet, women represent only 25% of the STEM workforce according to the White House Council on Women and Girls.
Why? Girls’ negative impressions of scientists start as early as elementary school. An NSF study "Back to School: Five Myths about Girls and Science" shows that in second grade, when students (both boys and girls) are asked to draw a scientist, most portray a white male in a lab coat. The drawings generally show an isolated person with a beaker or test tube. Any woman scientist they draw looks severe and not very happy. The persistence of these stereotypes turns girls off, and by eighth grade, boys are twice as interested in STEM careers as girls. girlSPARC™ aims to change this and encourage and foster interest in these areas.