New technologies are dramatically transforming work and the global economy every day. This new age of automation creates new opportunities for businesses and governments, but due to gender barriers as old as time, the next generation of girls is at risk of being left behind. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers hold tremendous promise for millions of women—but only if new policies tackle access and education problems first.
STEM education remains in the spotlight 25 years after the term first emerged. Coined in the 1990s by the National Science Foundation, the acronym is applied to any curricula, event, policy or education program addressing Science, Technology, Engineering or Math. Most often it references Science and Math, but all four areas have become hot topics in the general education of K-12 students. The emphasis carries through to higher education and beyond, seeking to prepare young adults to assume 21st century worthy jobs. Anticipated areas of need include employees who are interactive as problem solvers, researchers, designers, and engineers.
Beyoncé famously stated that “girls run the world” and while her sentiment is hopeful, there are still academic fields where girls are under-represented. The world of STEM is still largely male dominated, and with this industry booming, it is important that young girls are awarded opportunities to join in. The problem is not that girls are not interested in STEM subjects but that they are not encouraged to enter these fields or study the subjects at school.
As a science teacher, keeping girls in STEM is something I strive for. A few years ago, my school was fortunate enough to have a Techbridge Girls after-school program. Techbridge Girls is a nonprofit organization focused on keeping girls in STEM. It provides role models, families, and organizations with training, curriculum, and support to girls in undeserved areas.
The co-teacher of the after-school program was a female college student who shared her own struggles and successes in the STEM field. The curriculum included the girls adjusting the design of a robotic wooden dinosaur until it could walk a short distance without falling over, disassembling a hair dryer to determine what made it work, properly soldering five locations on an electronic circuit board, and engineering a gumball machine. I witnessed the girls' confidence grow as the weekly tasks increased in difficulty. With each struggle, they needed to find their own solution and with each solution, they found success. The experience gave them a glimpse of what their future could consist of.
Science, technology, engineering, and math are more important than ever, so we’ve put together a list of books to encourage girls to persevere in these subjects.
As a society, we learn about the world and advance our well being through science and engineering. The United States may be known around the world for its higher education, but compared to many other leading and steadily emerging countries, we lack a strong focus on educating scientists and engineers. One significant reason that we have fallen behind is that we do not encourage our female students to pursue career paths in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).