As the demand for innovation increases and the number of innovators drop, making students proficient in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects has become a hot topic. Now that STEM has become a household acronym for many concerned parents and educators, more attention is being paid to the unbalanced ratio of boys to girls interested in STEM subjects and careers.
According to Scientific American, The Girl Scouts recently released a report with the following statistics:
- 74 percent of girls ages 14-17 report an interest in STEM subjects.
- Two-thirds of girls who reported an interest in STEM subjects said their mother or father encouraged them to pursue their STEM interests.
- Peer pressure and gender stereotypes seem to cause a gap between girls’ interest in STEM and actually pursuing a STEM career. A majority of girls want to pursue a career that will allow them to help people and make a difference in the world, many don’t draw any connections between fulfilling these dreams and a having a STEM career.
Why does it matter if more females enter STEM fields? One concern is that we are in an innovation crisis. Why does more innovation matter? Economists believe it could improve our economy. “Innovation is now perceived as a panacea for job creation, income generation, economic growth, dollar strength, and the revival of the U.S. as global hegemon,” writes Bruce Nussbaum on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network. iSeek.org says, only 17 percent of chemical engineers are women and 22 percent of environmental scientists are women. We need more women in a male dominated field to bring fresh perspectives, new ideas, and spark innovation.
As parents and educators, it’s important to break the stereotype that any subjects are only for males or only for females. If you’re trying to encourage a girl to get involved in STEM subjects, find examples of women role models or find someone to serve as a mentor. Use the websites below as a jumping off point to get familiar with advances women have made in STEM fields and share them with your students, male and female.