For years, there has been discussion of the lack of female presence specifically in STEM fields. This problem is not a new one. Discussed below are two Professional Articles that explore how educators can increase the involvement of young girls in STEM fields. Jennifer L.W Fink, a writer, Registered nurse and educator, argues the reasons that stand in between girls in STEM fields. She explores the ways in which young girls can be engaged in her scholastic teacher article “Girls Rock” (2015). Beverly Carson, an upper elementary teacher at Garden Oaks Montessori Magnet in Houston Independent School District, saw the lack of female scientist role models her students looked up to. To combat this, Carson had her students write an educational play about female and scientist with science demonstrations to review science content (2016).
What’s Coming Between Girls and STEM:
Today, there are very few people who tell young girls that they are inherently bad at science and math. However, girls continue to struggle against media messages that suggest beauty and popularity are the keys to their success (Fink, 2015). Due to the fact that for years STEM was the realm of men, Fink argues the three major obstacles coming between girls and STEM are: stereotype threat, implicit bias, and lack of awareness and depth and breadth of STEM (2015). Since the notion that girls aren’t good at math is deeply engrained in US culture, bringing that stereotype to mind lowers confidence and performance of girls (Fink, 2015).
Carson’s findings were quite similar, she blamed herself as an educator when she found out her 6th grade girls named name Sally Ride as the only female scientist they knew (2016). This lack of mentorship and increase in stereotype make it hard for young girls to see themselves as scientist when they grow up (Carson, 2016).
Getting Girls Excited about STEM:
Carson and Fink both address that there are many ways to get young girls excited about STEM. Fink argues that one of the main reasons young girls stay away from the field is because no one takes the time to explain that STEM doesn’t just entail a lab waiting for your experiment results (2015). In the early elementary years, educators need to focus on hands-on projects to exercise student problem-solving skills, but it is important to later keep the girls’ interest high with real-world science and math activities (Fink, 2015). That is why Carson had her 6th grade class write a play dedicated to sharing the success of female scientists. The research the girls had to complete, opened them up to more female role models (Carson, 2016). Throughout the play the students also had to demonstrate certain scientific concepts which increased their scientific inquiry (Carson, 2016).
To increase interest in girls, it is important to bring in STEM professionals, both female and male, who are comfortable speaking with middle schoolers (Fink, 2015). If the professionals only speak in engineer jargon to a group of young girls, the idea that STEM is for other people may be reinforced (Fink, 2015).