George Lucas Educational Foundation

Are We Getting Too Aggressive Promoting STEM to Girls?

Are We Getting Too Aggressive Promoting STEM to Girls?

Related Tags: STEM
More Related Discussions
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

Had an interesting conversation with a parent the other day. I had just shared this video about the GoldieBlox kit:

And, a parent friend on FB shared it too. *WE* agree this is a great thing but she got pushback from a friend who said she was tiring of all the promotion about girls in STEM and that some kids just wanted to be "regular" or "girlie" girls.

Has anyone encountered anything similar?

The obvious response is that every child has to find their own way and that the amount of promotion we are doing re: girls in STEM absolutely PALES in comparison to the amount of "encouragement" (sic) about girls see in the media regarding their roles in society.

What do you think?


This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (12) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Teaching Middle School 'Technology, Engineering & Design' in Northfield, NJ

Hi Laura and Whitney,

At Edcamp NJ this weekend, I convened a session "Gender Equality in STEM: Moving beyond "Girls in STEM" & All That." About seven people showed up, but the conversation was pretty interesting. Consensus was that the overwhelming imbalance of imagery in popular media and society in general DWARFS the efforts of those of who believe girls need to be more involved in STEM. We have a LONG WAY TO GO to even DENT the existing environment. One kid at a time...

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

"...she was tiring of all the promotion about girls in STEM and that some kids just wanted to be "regular" or "girlie" girls."

There's a dichotomy in this statement implying that girls who like STEM are somehow different from regular or girlie girls.

Seems to me that this speaks to the need to promote more, not less, until we reach a point where anyone--boy or girl--can be interested in STEM without seeming out of the ordinary.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

I brought this question up to a group of feminist moms- many of them scientists- and I was surprised at what they said. Instead of wishing for more STEM for their girls, they wanted more art, music, social studies, AND science. They wanted more inquiry, more play, more nature and more joy in all kind of learning. The basic theme was summed up when one mom said, "I'm a scientist because I had a great social studies teacher. He taught me how to think hard and ask questions. Without him I never would've occurred to me to look deeply at anything. And looking deeply at things is the root of being a scientist." Their general perspective was that our intensive "test is best" focus Is a bigger problem than making sure girls know they can be anything they want to be.

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

I have a girl & 2 boys...although they have their "typical" gender moments, I treat them no different when it comes to learning. Regardless of gender (or race, or any other classification), it is about showing them the benefits of being inquisitive. I loved when my children got to the age where it was the endless "why?" question. It was never limited to gender specific interests....nor do I think it should be limited to STEM. I want my children to ALWAYS be it in play, arts, sports, or schoolwork.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

We had a couple of interesting comments on this topic from our community on Twitter:

Brad Clark, @bclark_cgchar
we can't overlook or slight the boys in the push for girls in STEM, both are needed.

Jennifer Clark, @ucclark
so many girls don't know what's out there, they are not exposed to stem careers. Start young, & break the gender stereotypes!

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

Kevin- I agree- in the end, it's one kid at a time, and getting the message out EARLY that science is fun, for girls and guys. Programming is cool. Robots are awesome. Let's show girls that designing jewelry you can print on the 3D printer is cool, because you can design whatever your heart desires and you can make it happen- even if that's not a girly thing at all. But let's not assume that making it pink is where is should begin and end, and let's make sure we have cross gender groups working in STEM classes, so guys and girls are able to work together, not search for another unisex enclave in order to find success.

Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)'s picture

Cross-posted from the "Women (and Girls) in STEM" thread, 'cuz it seems so relevant to this question. Great discussion and ideas above! IMHO, this video is clear evidence that we still have a long way to go -- and we have to do more than just "pink it up" as Whitney says.

Alas, the GoldieBlox video was taken down for a copyright infringement claim by the Beastie Boys, who are standing by their decision to never use their music in commercials. :-(

But, trending this week is this video by Emily Graslie, @ehmee on Twitter, who hosts the wonderful science show The Brain Scoop. Emily speaks out against the discrimination she encounters as a female host of a STEM series on YouTube:

Where My Ladies At?

Not only does she take sexist commenters to task, but she compiled an AMAZING list of YouTube channels with STEM shows hosted by women in the description field under the video player. Love it!

Sue Stinson's picture
Sue Stinson
8th grade Family and Consumer Science Teacher from South Jersey

Let's get an agreement on what STEM is: From where I sit I see it as an integrated curriculum which puts Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics together to foster creative thinking. Through teaching the engineering design process through a Project Based Learning method, all students will be able to enjoy the joys of STEM in practical uses for their life. I teach STEM daily even though many colleagues would diminish my subject content as being old fashioned.
If girls were enabled from an early age to participate in STEM activities they could potentially find a rewarding career. Better yet, if we combine the ARTS in with STEM - we will find that girls truly can gain the emotional connection that many crave.
Just my opinion as a girl who grew up building dog houses, boats, etc.

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

Hi Sue!

There are a lot of people who are working with STEAM- adding the Arts (A) into STEM, and I think it works well. It reminds me of places like Stanford's design school (They have some great k-12 things here: where teaching the process of design thinking is just a natural way to think through problem solving.
(BTW- Tom and Dave Kelley's new book on Creative Confidence should be on every teacher's Xmas list.)

Check this site out as well- STEM to STEAM:

I think with things like 3D printers becoming more accessible to students, the opportunity to design, rapid prototype and realize an object/idea in a short period of time is incredibly powerful!

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.