While jobs in STEM continue to grow, recruiting women and minorities to these fields continues to be a challenge. The way to get more women working in STEM fields is two-pronged: First, promote the success of women already involved in STEM. Second, engage female students of all ages and backgrounds to pursue careers in STEM.
Young women may actively pursue math and science courses, but without a connection to successful women involved in STEM fields, they may not fully visualize the ample opportunities for them to realize their potential. Female mentors and role models in STEM can profoundly influence young women to pursue a STEM. Local businesses can be an excellent resource for schools interested in exposing students to first-hand experience in STEM fields, especially if the school itself is lacking in STEM resources.
Teachers Need Support
Teachers require access to engineering education resources, which can be costly and not often available. Hands-on and project-based learning generates interest and motivates girls toward STEM subjects early in their education. Schools can also join forces with local companies who may offer group presentations, host field trips or sponsor educational events. The Girl Scouts of America now includes STEM subjects in their learning curriculum, offering new badges in such areas as online safety, protecting private information, and cyber security. Palo Alto Networks in California, a provider of next-generation security for businesses, is assisting the effort to expose more young girls to cybersecurity to meet the explosive demands in the future. The Cybersecurity Jobs Report shows that by 2021, there will be a 3.5 million deficit of qualified cybersecurity professionals, according to USA Today.
Understanding the Trial and Error Factor
Girls tend to feel more pressure to be perfect in their work than their male counterparts. Young women can become discouraged if they earn less than an “A” in a STEM subject. Even those who earn top marks can feel discouraged if success doesn’t come easily. Trial and error plays a big part in STEM subjects and girls need to understand that it’s rare to find a solution on the first try. Easing the internalized pressure makes learning more fun and rewarding. Einstein himself said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” A classic Einstein poster with that quote would be a useful addition to any STEM classroom.
STEM Opens the Door to Meaningful Careers
Many women are motivated in their career choice by a desire to help others. Seventy percent of girls who choose STEM courses select subjects pertaining to medicine or biology. Educators, mentors and parents should promote the social impact of other types of STEM careers. For instance, engineers may design products that help people. If a student connects with a working engineer who shows passion about her product that helps people, students can see show engineers, while not working with people face-to-face, can achieve success that is equally rewarding.
Supporting and mentoring girls and young women who are interested in STEM subjects encourages them to continue their studies and feel more confident pursuing a career. Empowering girls requires being the change you want to see in the world by taking an active role. Whether you want to nurture a diverse culture in your workplace, or show children how science can be used for good, Venture Up programs engage and inspire teams and promote inclusivity.