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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Women (and Girls) in STEM

Women (and Girls) in STEM

Related Tags: STEM
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In the U.S., demand for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals is expected to increase 16.8 percent from now to 2020, adding nearly 1.3 million new STEM jobs to the workforce.

Despite the fact that more women attend and graduate college than men, women still remain significantly underrepresented in STEM, both in terms of jobs and degrees. Women comprise 48 percent of the workforce, yet they hold only 24 percent of STEM jobs.

My frustration then lies in this question: Where are the women? What are you doing to encourage the girls in your classes, school, life to seek their talents in the area of STEM? Are we doing enough to support them to reach their full potential and feel confident that they can be great scientists, engineers, programmers if that is their passion?

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Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

My undergrad degree is in biology, I went to law school, and now i work in digital media- does that count as STEM? i think it's about exposing girls to the idea that they can create anything they want- give them the tools to do so. If a girl wants to use a 3d printer to print out barbie shoes, that has to be equally acceptable as boys who print out a whistle. but more importantly, we have to start by encouraging girls to put their hand up in class, ask questions, and not be shy about making their voices heard anywhere. Male dominated fields exist for many reasons, including bias, but we need to support girls in getting in there and mixing it up, knowing that they are just as capable. Part of it is confidence, part of it is social programming...
In my law school class, some women complained a teacher didnt call on women as frequently as men. I said "He always calls on me when I raise my hand." You have to engage in order to be selected and be picked, and that's the sort of thing we need to encourage in all students, boys and girls, rather than waiting around for someone else to make a decision or selection for us.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Staff

Becky, I love that there's so much determination and innovation represented in that video. Thank you for sharing it.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

I recently started a student technology team at my school, and I'm pleased to say that more than half of the members are girls. It was definitely a concern of mine leading up to the start of it that it would be a boys' club, so I made sure to give it the hard sell to everybody.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
K-4 Technology Facilitator from Northfield, New Jersey
Facilitator

At my school we use the wonderful Engineering is Elementary STEM curriculum at my school and it has a TON of content geared towards girls. For one thing, the storybooks that present the design challenge kids must solve frequently either feature girl characters as the lead or in significant supporting roles (e.g., mothers/aunts who are various types of engineers).

This video, though a bit long, explains why we need to teach Engineering in elementary schools and makes several references to the importance of girls in STEM. Check it out!

Ioannis Miaoulis - NCTL STEM Speech
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B-g1_6QCWU

-kj-

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
K-4 Technology Facilitator from Northfield, New Jersey
Facilitator

Dan! I would love, love, LOVE to see our school do something similar. How do you structure it? What kind of tech support do they do during the school day? What classes do they miss? Thanks!

Kristen Swanson's picture
Kristen Swanson
Teacher, Leader, Edcamper, Learner
Blogger

I often interface with coders, software developers, and others in technology-related fields. I'm often sitting in a room with all men and I am the only woman. And while it's not intimidating, I could see how a young girl might find the environment off-putting. I think we need to make STEM environments more girl-friendly in an effort to get more girls interested. ;-)

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

[quote]Dan! I would love, love, LOVE to see our school do something similar. How do you structure it? What kind of tech support do they do during the school day? What classes do they miss? Thanks![/quote]
I only just started it this month, so it's pretty early going. We started off with once every other week meetings during lunch and recess, but the kids are pushing for more.

I'm planning on leaving it as pretty self-directed to start. I want the kids to explore their interests. I'm going to badge their expertise through Edmodo and then know who to call on in any given situation based on what they've shown.

Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)'s picture
Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)
Senior Manager of Video Programming, Production, & Curation at Edutopia
Staff

Over the summer, we published a wonderful video about girls leading a robotics team and sharing their passion with younger kids -- check it out, also includes a few girls + STEM-related Edutopia articles under the video player:

How Making Robots Captivates Kids' Imaginations
http://www.edutopia.org/is-school-enough-robotics-mentoring-video

And I'm also working on a 5-Minute Film Fest about girls & STEM -- no idea when I'll publish this one but if you want to have a sneak peek at my diamond-in-the-rough playlist of potential videos for inclusion, you can peek here: http://huzzaz.com/collection/girls-stem -- that link may not be the final one but it's a good place to get some video inspiration!

I think I'll add some of the great videos you've shared above!

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