How Can We Make More Girls Be Interested In Science, Technology?
Although improvements are being made with the increased involvement of women in science-related careers, there is still a significant under-representation of women, especially among minority women. There are a number of factors that contribute to this lack of women in science in our society, but most of these factors can be overcome to produce the next Anita Roberts, Sally Ride, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Blackburn, or YOU.
According to a study entitled, Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) by Kristine De Welde @ Florida Gulf Coast University and Sandra Laursen & Heather Thiry @ University of Colorado at Boulder (2007), several key factors prevent girls from entering or being successful in STEM fields. First, they found that the classroom environments in schools were not conducive to encouraging girls to pursue interests in these types of careers. Another key factor was a lack of female role models who could provide encouragement and inspiration as well as demonstrate how to balance their lives between careers and family life. Other significant factors include girls not being well prepared for the demands of these fields as well as not being encouraged by people around them. Furthermore, these women experience more discrimination and bias against them in the workplace in both hiring practices and in opportunities for advancement. These discriminatory practices also include differences in salaries between women and their male counterparts as well as the practice of seeing women in these positions at a lower status than their male colleagues. Finally, it is more difficult in general for women in the workplace to balance careers and families, but it is even more so for STEM careers because they are often more time-consuming due to requiring extended education, and this can result in the sacrifice of family life or career goals for these women.
Another study published in February 2010 called Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics by Catherine Hill, Ph.D., Christianne Corbett, and Andresse St. Rose, Ed.D. focus on how families, schools, and communities can encourage girls to overcome obstacles to help them enter STEM careers. At the same time, in order to overcome the gender inequalities and societal stereotypes, it is important to believe that intelligence isn't fixed, but it is something that can be nurtured and grown which helps level the playing field and means that girls have just as much potential to learn and thrive in these fields as boys. Another important factor in improving girls' chances of excelling in these fields is to provide them with spatial training to increase their spatial skills. This can be done simply by encouraging them to build things, take them apart, and then put them back together again. Drawing and working with their hands on various projects will also help enhance their spatial abilities.
So how can we encourage more girls into STEM fields? The answers may seem simple, but history tells us that change isn't easy. The key is for us to change people's attitudes first and foremost which is probably one of the hardest things to do, but it will be well worth it if we do because it will allow us to tap into a reservoir of talented, creative female minds that can help us soar into the future. Then we have to provide the opportunities, experiences, skills, and resources that are necessary to get the job done. If we can't find any in our communities, then we need to look to other communities for help or start new ones, and the Internet is full of practically infinite resources that we could use to jump-start any idea or program. What are you waiting for?