One thing is clear about the future – jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) will provide opportunity, a chance to shape the world, and job-stability as society becomes increasingly tech-focused. Yet in our country, there’s a major gender imbalance in STEM fields with women vastly underrepresented – they comprise only about 25 percent of job holders – even though they make up nearly half the US workforce. Additionally, without the full participation of women, we are losing their creativity and potential contributions that are vital to our nation’s innovative capacity and global competitiveness.
Women with STEM jobs earn a premium – about one-third more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs. Factors that contribute to this imbalance include the lack of role models, gender stereotyping, and policies that are less family-friendly. Even women with a STEM degree are less likely to work in a STEM occupation than their male counterparts.
So how do we help the girls in our life to take an interest? Watch the language you use to speak to them, call out inequality when you see it on TV or in the movies, and point out women doing amazing things. Be open to your girls’ ideas when they want to do a project, make sure you include fun with learning. Encourage resourcefulness and problem-solving, and teach them how to research using technology. Set up a space for building and prototyping and be enthusiastic about their ideas. (Of course, this applies to boys too!)
Your children’s teachers will certainly have resources and programs to share and there are many ideas online. Work together to help develop the next generation of amazing STEM women!