Science. Technology. Engineering. Arts. Math.
STEAM or STEM (if you take out arts) are educational movements to get more students interested in pursuing these subjects as careers. In 2011, women held less than 25% of the STEM jobs in the US, and women earned a disproportionately low share of STEM undergrad degrees, particularly engineering.
Many organizations are not okay with this stat, including engineering toy company Goldieblox, Google project Made with Code, and national nonprofit Girls Who Code. They have all set out to eradicate whatever stigma surrounds these fields, and encourage more girls to open their minds to STEAM and STEM fields.
If you have a budding scientist on your hands, or maybe the makings of a computer whiz or math genius – check out some super-fun STEM channels on YouTube!
What Holds Girls Back: Gender Barriers
A 2012 Girl Scout report about what girls say about STEM showed that regardless of STEM interest, there continue to be barriers associated with STEM interest and involvement.
- More than half (57%) of all girls say that girls their age don’t typically consider a career in STEM.
- Nearly half (47%) of all girls say that they would feel uncomfortable being the only girl in a group or class.
- Further, 57% of all girls say that if they went into a STEM career, they’d have to work harder than a man just to be taken seriously.
I think some girls don’t want to do [STEM] because they don’t think it’s something girls should do. It’s a boy subject; they should stay far away from it. —teen girl, Indianapolis, Indiana
It’s quite possible that these negative associations create barriers that keep girls from making STEM careers their top choices. As long as these stereotypes and barriers persist, they will likely impact whether girls ultimately consider STEM fields as viable options for their futures. Girls will continue to feed into these barriers or choose to fight them.
As opposed to the past stereotype that even girls who perform well academically are not interested in STEM (because it’s a “boy thing”) this research demonstrates that interest among girls is there, it just needs to be primed.
That’s where you, you parent/caregiver/mentor, come in!
It’s important to pair girls’ motivation and STEM interest with external factors, such as adult support and exposure to the possibilities that STEM fields can offer. Even if you don’t understand what biochemical engineering is, or how to explain quantum physics, that doesn’t mean you can’t be an enthusiastic encourager!
Because in the words of Bill Nye: SCIENCE RULES.