Women make up approximately half the population, but you’d never know it from walking into a lab or today’s biggest tech companies. Consistently underrepresented in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, women’s ideas and talents are not being leveraged in today’s fastest-growing (and best paid) fields.
Fixing these inequalities has to start early. We need to encourage women and girls to pursue these fields and overcome the challenges they will inevitably face on the road to equal representation. Here are some tips for getting that process started.
Explain How the United States Needs More Women STEM Leaders!
Persistent stereotypes keep many girls from feeling like STEM fields are for them. To get rid of those stereotypes once and for all, we need to show girls and young women that there is a need for their skills and leadership in these fields.
Many companies these days are coming up short in finding qualified STEM talent. The growth of industries like biotech, consumer technology and data science means that companies are hiring for modern skills in STEM subjects and need lots of applicants. Women are needed to help fill that demand and can contribute an important perspective for organizations in these fields.
Are You Supporting STEM Education Opportunities?
It’s important to remember that bringing more women into the STEM workforce starts in the classroom. Girls need the opportunity to explore these subjects, to see real-world applications, and to follow their curiosity.
Encouraging girls in STEM means giving them every opportunity to learn. That can mean altering the existing STEM curriculum in the classroom, incorporating more collaborative projects, or creating special events and camps focused on STEM education for girls. By providing these opportunities, we can not only get girls interested in pursuing these subjects but also help reverse harmful gender stereotypes that hold girls back.
Provide Young STEM Students with Accomplished Women Leaders to Look Up To
Because there is so much gender inequality in STEM fields, many girls feel that they don’t have any role models to look up to. The good news is that many trailblazing women have beaten the odds and become an example of what success in STEM for women can look like.
If you want to inspire girls in STEM fields, don’t make them find role models and mentors on their own. Do the heavy lifting and provide examples of women who have achieved success.
Historical examples are great, of course, but it’s also important to point out contemporary female leaders in STEM as well. Whenever possible, in-person meetings with role models can work wonders for inspiring and building confidence in students.
Show How Coding Can Be Fun
For many people, coding seems extremely intimidating, difficult, and boring. But as coding in languages like Python and R is becoming an important skill in today’s workforce, especially in the STEM fields, it’s important to show girls that coding doesn’t have to be intimidating.
While in the past, there were few resources for teaching programming, that’s not an excuse anymore. There are plenty of free online courses that show kids how coding can be fun! Coding games can teach kids the basics and help them to think like a programmer.
Games are a great learning tool because kids become focused on having fun and not so much on their performance. By teaching coding with games and other fun activities, it helps to take the pressure off and gives girls
Encouraging A Growth Mindset is Key for Women in STEM
Cultural forces are keeping women and girls out of STEM. If we want to improve representation, we have to change the cultural forces that affect gender equality and we have to change our mindset. Girls are often socialized to believe that boys are more inherently talented in STEM subjects (which is a myth) and often become discouraged as they move through school and are not supported in learning these subjects.
If we want girls to persevere and get excited about STEM, we have to help them shift their mindset. A growth mindset is all about exploration, trial and error, and getting better over time—not celebrating the concept of “natural talent.” Girls need to feel empowered to make mistakes and learn from them. Only then will they follow their interests and become involved in STEM long-term.