Navigating the Gender Gap: How to interest more girls in STEM subjects

As parents, carers and educators, we hope our children will achieve greatness and end up doing something they love. In reality, society and culture have a huge influence on who our children are and what they aspire to be. As children get older, there’s increasing pressure to conform to the idea there are certain things more suited to boys and others to girls. STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are stereotypically more interesting to boys, though girls would benefit from learning more about them.

Why Should More Girls Study STEM Subjects?

For girls, following stereotypical career paths may have serious repercussions on their future financial stability. Woman working in STEM-related careers in the USA earn 33% more than their counterparts, and with STEM-related fields growing at a staggering rate this is where future jobs are likely to be. However only 15.5% of those working in UK STEM careers are women and there’s a shortage of skilled workers in these fields. It therefore makes sense to encourage girls to develop an interest in STEM subjects.

ObamaStem

It’s not just about gaining financial stability or job security; many girls are genuinely interested in STEM subjects. Young girls, like their male counterparts, are naturally inquisitive about how things work, until society nudges them in a different direction. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo and former engineer at Google, said,
“People ask me all the time: “What is it like to be a woman at Google?” I’m not a woman at Google; I’m a geek at Google. And being a geek is just great.”

Many girls have a geeky side, so in order to engage them in STEM subjects we need to foster their inquiring minds, allowing them to be themselves and not defined by gender.

How to Begin?

Give Children Positive Role Models

Mastercard, through their “Girls in Tech” research, found that parents are the most influential force in children studying STEM subjects. This doesn’t mean parents have to be award-winning scientists, but if both parents show an interest in STEM subjects, children can see men and woman engaging with them equally.
A study from the University of North Carolina showed that girls with female teachers in STEM subjects are far likelier to pursue a career in these areas. Obviously we don’t want to dictate who teaches our children purely on this, but it demonstrates that children follow the paths of people they admire. This doesn’t have to be someone they know – chat to them about woman who’ve made great achievements in STEM careers such as astronauts, scientists and entrepreneurs.

Provide Opportunities for Girls to Develop STEM Skills at Home

Give your child access to a cyber-safe computer or tablet so they can explore online, find out information, and learn how technology works. There are also many girls’ toys on the market with STEM elements. Examples include a friendship bracelet that can be customised by computer coding, and a dolls house they can build with working electrical circuits.

Challenge Misconceptions about STEM Subjects

Mastercard’s “Girls in Tech” research found that girls appreciate STEM careers pay more, but were concerned that STEM career paths lacked creativity. When doing mathematical equations or measuring chemicals in beakers, it’s easy to miss their wider impact. Always refer to the bigger picture and explain that having skills in these areas gives them the building blocks to make cool things and help people in the future. STEM subjects can be very creative, so encourage children to try a range of activities so they can find something that appeals to them.

Introduce Girls to Coding

Whether a girl decides to work in a STEM field or not, technology will be an even greater part of everyday life when they reach adulthood. So learning about technology and having the skill set to interact with it is incredibly important for the future. Coding is a fun way to develop girls’ problem-solving skills, and the more successful they are, the more confidant they’ll become with technology.
By making a conscious effort to engage girls with STEM subjects, we can give them the best possible chance of finding a career they love and achieving the financial security they deserve.

As always, you are welcome to share your experiences and ideas!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *