Girls Are STEM Material

Girls excited by science!

My niece is getting ready to go to college. She is a beautiful and talented girl who has spent years competing in Irish Step Dancing, which is most familiar to people through River Dance. It is a predominantly female activity, part of the draw being the opportunity to wear colorful costumes and wigs with bouncing curls as you replicate the complicated foot work.

But Stephanie is more than a dancing princess. She likes to go mudding (driving trucks in impossibly muddy terrain) and is one of only a few girls in her college majoring in interactive media. She is a well rounded individual, a young woman who is excited by creating with technology in a male-dominated field.

Off to college

Off to college

Unfortunately, many girls today are not considering careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) compared to their male counterparts. This is not because girls are incapable of learning the material. Perhaps they haven’t had the same opportunities to explore and play in the same ways little boys have been encouraged to explore their world. Maybe they’ve decided to believe the old societal misconceptions that girls aren’t good at certain things. Whatever the reason, girls have a unique way of looking at the world that the STEM fields can benefit from, just like the traditional female career paths can benefit from having male counterparts. Men and women tend to focus on different aspects of the same situation, seeing the world from unique vantage points.

Even though 60% of college students are female, 90% of engineering jobs go to boys. Adults can help the situation by letting girls know about the STEM fields of study and career paths. When girls know what is available to them, they don’t want to be held back from following their interests and dreams, as this video demonstrates.

Do you want to help your young daughter shatter a few glass ceilings? Begin by providing specific materials and experiences, helping them think out of the stereotypical box.

A girl learning about a fish, up close and personal.

A girl learning about a fish, up close and personal.

Describe a variety of people by profession, asking your children whether the professional is a male or a female. Let them know that every profession can be either a boy or a girl, as long as they have the education or experience. Examples: A chef, a teacher, a doctor, a veterinarian, an engineer who designs airplanes or cars, the mayor of the city, the president of the United States, a janitor, a cashier, a truck driver, or a nurse. You get the idea!

When providing feedback to your daughter, comment on her effort instead of only her appearance.

Girls excited by science!

Girls excited by science!

 

Do not assume certain colors are only for boys or only for girls. Pink is also the color of our lips, flowers, the sunset, and watermelon. Blue is the color of the ocean, the sky, and some people’s eyes. Purple is the color of eggplant, lollipops, flowers, balloons. These are all things that many people of both genders enjoy.

 

A traditional dollhouse becomes much more when gak and cups are added. Cady learns about the fluid properties of the gak as it drips over the surface of the house and cups adhere to it.

A traditional dollhouse becomes much more when gak and cups are added. Cady learns about the fluid properties of the gak as it drips over the surface of the house and cups adhere to it.

Check out some of the new toys designed specifically for developing girls’ engineering abilities.

Goldie Blox are designed by a female engineer for girls to learn about belt drives (like are found find in cars).

Roominate dollhouses are designed by two female engineers (electrical and mechanical) for girls to learn about electrical wiring and construction as they build their dollhouses, flying machines and ferris wheels.

 

Provide toys that are often considered for boys such as erector sets, kits for building solar cars, and k’nex.

Pulleys and construction toys are for boys and girls.

Pulleys and construction toys are for boys and girls.

Introduce kids to scientists such as Leonardo DaVinci for his brilliant ideas, often inspired by observing nature, or Marie Curie, the first female to win a Nobel Prize (in physics). Following in their footsteps, replicate experiments and come up with new hypotheses to test. Ask questions such as: What do you think will happen if you move this block here? How many horses can fit on the bridge? Which items will sink or float?

Our future female scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians will thank you for providing interesting problems for them to contemplate and solve, putting them on the path to helping solve humanities pressing problems.

 

 

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