STEM not for Girly-Girls?

How parents can prepare their daughters for a successful future.

Since Mattel removed the phrase ‘Math Class is tough’ in 1992 from their speaking Barbie, the amount of women pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers is slowly growing, but still lagging far behind the men. Of every 100 women who entered college, only 12% majored in a STEM field. After 10 years only three of the women are still working in STEM.

In the near future, the (higher paying) jobs in STEM are growing rapidly and therefore this will open up more opportunities for girls, if they pursue these STEM careers.

Various schools have started many effective STEM programs to gain the interest of girls, but also at home parents can brighten the future of their daughters.

Apps to learn coding/programming

Free apps are available, like interactive games, quizzes and animations, that help anyone who has basic reading skills grasp the basics of ‘coding’. Edutopia.org made a list of available apps.

Toys

The Barbie: ‘I can be a computer engineer’ could be a great choice, especially if your daughter loves to dress up and comb Barbie’s hair.

But why not exposing her to other toys that gives her hands-on experience in building structures, solving problems and creating something new.

Many gift guides and lists give you a great overview of what is available in the stores and online. Examples are: ‘A Mighty Girl’s Holiday Gift Guide’, ‘Holiday Gift Guide from the AAUW’ or the 2013 #STEMGirls Gift Guide on Pinterest.

Saturday/Summer/AfterSchool programs

If you can dedicate some after-school time, several programs have started on Saturdays, Weekends or the Summer months. These STEM programs are designed to complement and supplement school-day learning.

The Afterschool Alliance shows you what is available in your state. For other more immersive programs, look at “The Girls Who Code summer Immersion Program”, summer + weekend Camps from “For Girls in Science”, “GirlStart” or read some resources provided in the “NGC Project”

Female role models

In general, the media show more traditional role models, so as a parent you can put more effort in talking about women who have been successful in STEM fields. Some well known examples are Marissa Mayer (CEO Yahoo!), Mae Jemison (Astronaut NASA) and Robin Bienfait (CIO RIM).

Practical applications

Try to talk about practical applications of technology, such as solving games and puzzles. This has proven to be very effective in getting girls engaged.

Examples of solutions that appeal to girls, are “modeling the spread of a disease”, or “programming a robot who wants to find all the green Spam in a maze”.

Read more about how this was used in the Harvey Mudd College program.

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