As a society, we learn about the world and advance our well-being through science and engineering. The United States may be known around the world for its higher education, but compared to many other leading and steadily emerging countries, we lack a strong focus on educating scientists and engineers. One significant reason that we have fallen behind is that we do not encourage our female students to pursue career paths in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
This needs to change, as the lack of women in STEM will continue to plague our country until all students, regardless of sex, have adequate opportunities to explore math and science throughout elementary, middle, and high school. If we want to attract the best and brightest minds into the fields that will move us forward, we must look to all of the population. More women can contribute to our field, and we can help make that happen. Below are a few strategies for how we can help.
Expose them to STEM
We stand to gain a lot by exposing young girls to STEM fields and encouraging those who are interested to follow their hearts and minds. Simply focusing attention on one age group cannot cure all societal issues that influence career choices among females. Correcting the negative perceptions that girls develop at a young age can, however, lead them to embrace math and science when they reach high school, rather than avoid the subjects. Administrators and educators must strive to create environments in high school and college math and science programs that are inviting to females if we want to prevent the likelihood of their choosing a different direction.
Encourage Participation in Special Programs
More and more workshops are sprouting up nowadays that encourage young girls to maintain their interest in STEM fields. In-school and out-of-school programs are gaining popularity, and in order for that to continue, those of us in STEM fields have to support both local and national efforts to foster girls.
Support Learning Opportunities in the Community
Popular national clubs such as Girl Scouts of the USA have started to give added attention to introducing girls to STEM. There has been an improved focus on motivating young girls to explore typically male-dominated fields. This shows an important shift in thinking. Today the organization has really stepped up its programs to help ensure that girls succeed in all areas.
Serve as a Mentor
The value of mentorship is irreplaceable. Finding a mentor early on can do wonders for building confidence and translating it into career satisfaction. The people that are chosen as mentors need to have the capacity and capability to lead young people toward success. A mentor is not only someone who is willing to spend time teaching techniques and processes but also someone who takes an interest in long-term advancement.
Take Charge and Educate
We’re an information-rich society, and every one of us has access to vast resources — they’re available online for any women interested in the STEM fields. Women can visit the websites of multiple professional organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers, Women in Technology International, Association for Women in Mathematics, and Association of Women in Science, to name just a few. These resources present a tremendous opportunity to learn a great deal about the field, what it’s like to be a woman in a specific STEM profession, career opportunities, and so on.