NCRW is continuing to identify best practices and optimal strategies for building pipelines to encourage women and girls’ advancement in the STEM fields. Pipeline programs, such as Girls Inc.’s after-school Operation SMART and MIT’s Women’s Techno logy Program are prime examples of initiatives that work under the assumption that girls are interested in math, science and technology. Mentoring programs are also becoming increasingly common in academic, advocacy and business sectors to strengthen the leadership pipeline. Women mentors serve as role models who reinforce young women’s perceptions of their own potential to advance in their studies and careers. Effective pipeline programs rely on partnerships across organizations and sectors, such as the STEM Accelerator Initiative administered by the National Alliance of State Science and Mathematics Coalitions.
In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. She blasted off aboard Challenger, culminating a long journey that started in 1977 when the Ph.D. candidate answered an ad seeking astronauts for NASA missions.
According to her official biography, by the time Ride decided to apply to become an astronaut, she had already received degrees in physics and English and was on her way to a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University.
A recent Girl Scout Research Institute study showed that 74% of high school girls are interested in STEM. But few girls pursue careers in these areas, in part because many think they'd have to work harder than men to be taken seriously.
Leaders of the Girl Scouts aim to change this by ramping up the troops' exposure to STEM, both through activities and interactions with women working in these fields.
"Sometimes, access is just knowing about the careers that are available and meeting a young woman who is a role model," said Suzanne Harper, senior director of program resources at Girl Scouts of the USA, the national organization.
The Girl Scouts have infused STEM throughout their badges, which were overhauled last fall ahead of the organization's 100th anniversary this year. The organization has also formed new partnerships with AT&T and the New York Academy of Sciences to connect girls with female engineers, scientists and mathematicians.
Two University of Kansas professors have published a study showing that ability alone simply isn’t enough for women to excel in the STEM fields, and that how far women are from privilege makes a much bigger difference.
Barbara Kerr, Williamson Family Distinguished Professor of Counseling Psychology and Research in Education; and Karen Multon, professor and chair of psychology and research in education, published the study in the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment. The study examines “distance from privilege,” or the idea that how far young women perceives themselves from ideal socioeconomic, geographic, educational and various other variables can determine how likely they can be to persist in education and careers in the STEM fields. Two methods for measuring where women view themselves in relation to ideal places of power and privilege were also developed.
“We’re trying to understand how to keep young women in college in STEM,” Kerr said. “Once they are in the field, how do we keep them there? We find over and over that women who do persist have had to overcome many barriers.”
The researchers have found that ability alone is not enough to predict whether a young woman will succeed in STEM. It is an important variable, Kerr said, but research should also consider a number of other social variables and take a subjective look at what may stand in the way of success. Developing a tool that can accurately measure distance from privilege can greatly benefit gender equity work and help develop a model for identifying women with the potential to persist in the field.
Mildred García, Ed.D., is the incoming president of California State University, Fullerton, and currently serves in that capacity at CSU Dominguez Hills, where she has been since 2007. She is the first Latina president of the CSU system. During her tenure, García has cut costs, boosted enrollment, increased student graduation rates and expanded fundraising. She facilitated the first endowed professorship, the <i>Wallis Annenberg Endowed Professor for Innovation in STEM Education</i>.</p><p>García is a scholar in the field of higher education, and her research and publications have concentrated on equity in higher education and its impact on policy practice.
In the next five years, STEM jobs are projected to grow twice as quickly as jobs in all other fields according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics. While all jobs are expected to grow by 10.4 percent, STEM jobs are expected to increase by 21.4 percent. Similarly, 80 percent of jobs in the next decade will require technical skills.
By this measure, future STEM jobs represent a huge opportunity to today's students. But to put these numbers into perspective, of the 3.8 million ninth graders in the U.S., only 233,000 end up choosing a STEM degree in college, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This means only 6 percent of ninth graders will become STEM graduates. And of these graduates, women will be even more underrepresented in most STEM fields.
These are alarming statistics. How do we get more young boys and girls to be interested in STEM-related fields? It isn't an easy task. Schools do not always adequately prepare students for these rigorous subjects, and college programs are designed to weed out the less persistent. Nationally, only 41 percent of initial White and Asian American STEM majors who begin a degree in STEM-related fields complete their degree in less than six years.
In addition, societal pressures continue to loom over girls who might otherwise consider the STEM fields. A couple of years ago, I met amazing parents, both of whom had a background in engineering and hoped their 10 year-old daughter would follow in their footsteps. They encouraged her to take an after school science/robotics program. When she got there, she found she was outnumbered 6:1 by boys in the class. As the only girl, she came home crying much of the time because she was teased and told that geeky girls are not welcome in the boys' club. Ironically, by the time young adults are entering college programs in STEM fields, many complain about the lack of gender diversity.
The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology released a new report that outlines four key areas where companies should focus their recruitment efforts to increase access to a range of technical talent available in a highly competitive environment. Solutions to Recruit Technical Women is the first in a series of reports offering solutions companies can employ to improve the recruitment, retention, and advancement of technical women.
Generation STEM is national research report investigating girls' perceptions, attitudes, and interests in the subjects and general field of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) from the voices of girls themselves. The report consists of a literature review, as well as qualitative (focus group) and quantitative (survey) research with 1,000 girls across the country. The study finds that girls are interested in STEM and aspire to STEM careers, but need further exposure and education about what STEM careers can offer, and how STEM can help girls make a difference in the world.
THIS WINTER, Lego, the toy company that has inspired many an engineer, unveiled a line of blocks called Lego Friends, aimed specifically at girls. The bricks come in pastel colors, the figurines go to beauty shops, and the concept is straight out of market research. Lego executives say girls play differently from boys. They don’t want to build complex fighter jets like the ones on the cover of the Lego Star Wars boxes. They want to tell stories, instead.
I have no doubt that girls in focus groups were interested in putting little Lego flowers on little Lego treehouses. But that’s not the whole story; figuring out what girls want is a matter of asking the right questions. A year ago, when the Girl Scout Research Institute embarked on a study of girls, math, and science, researchers expected to find a Lego Friends sort of world: girls drawn to cute and pretty stuff, who didn’t aspire to careers in science. Instead, the study’s results, which are being released today, upend those old assumptions.
In other words, the trouble isn’t girl-themed toys, but what girl-themed toys ask girls to do. Salem State University professor Rebecca Hains, who studies girls and media, recently dug up a 1990s “Saturday Night Live’’ parody of a game called “Chess for Girls,’’ which showed girls cradling pink bishops and rooks as if they were baby dolls.
It reminded her of Lego Friends. Objections to the line have often focused on the gender stereotypes associated with pink blocks and Lego flowers. But whether girls want to play with pastels or pretty clothes is really beside the point. The real objection to Lego Friends is that the kits seem oversimplified. Storytelling has replaced problem-solving, instead of accompanying it.
If Lego really wants to get girls excited, maybe it should give them a tougher challenge, instead: a pink floral space-exploration kit that’s harder and more complex than the one the boys get. If you give girls problems to solve — whether or not they involve flowers or small animals — they’ll be inclined to solve them. As girls, and as adults.
n all scientific fields of study except biological sciences men continue to outnumber women. The fields of physical sciences and computer sciences and engineering show the highest gender disparity. Why does this underrepresentation matter?
Fewer female graduates in scientific higher education translate into fewer women working in scientific research and occupations. For example, at Rutgers, women are only 19.5 percent of tenured and tenure-track science faculty.