This year marks 25 years since The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for women’s rights. While it goes without saying that at STEM Minds we work to empower girls (and all of our students) to be fearless learners and become the next generation of innovators and problem solvers all year round, International Women’s Day is the perfect time to amplify that message!
Despite the Beijing Action Plan being created 25 years ago, global change has been quite slow for the majority of women and girls. Today, not a single country can claim to have achieved complete gender equality.
Many obstacles remain for women. Women continue to be undervalued, they work more and earn less, and experience violence at home and in public spaces. While we have made a lot of progress, there is still a long way to go.
For today, we will focus on amplifying and empowering women in STEM fields. This article will serve as a brief “roundup” of tools and resources to help you work to empower women in STEM. STEM fields are amazing and exciting, and everyone can agree they are the careers of the future, yet sadly they are largely lacking in female representation.
The “T” and “E” of STEM make up the vast majority of STEM-related jobs, yet only 12% of engineers and 26% of computer scientists are women.
The Center for Talent Innovation found that women leave STEM fields in droves: 52% of highly qualified women working for science, technology, or engineering companies leave their jobs. Women are being pushed out of these important, influential, and lucrative careers.
So what can you do to help young girls in STEM?
*While it is our goal to inspire and empower young girls to take an interest in STEM subjects, it is important to recognize that the lack of women in STEM is also much more than a pipeline problem.*
The foundation of many STEM skills starts at an early age. Boys are often pushed toward activities that will develop the kinds of abilities that lend themselves to STEM fields such as being encouraged to use toys involving creating and working with your hands. LEGO and other building toys are largely seen as “boy toys”. In contrast, playing with dolls or dress-up (i.e. “girl” activities) tend to encourage language-based learning. Allowing young girls to do hands-on STEM activities can encourage them to see the value and excitement of STEM careers later on. Exposing our children at a young age to a variety of fields can help them picture themselves in those roles someday.
When women don’t see other women in certain roles or careers, they can feel like they don’t belong. But women have always been in STEM, and we aren’t going anywhere.
In the Classroom
Research says that Female students perform better in science when the images in their textbooks included women scientists. According to a study conducted by Microsoft, girls are also far more likely to feel empowered in STEM when they know a woman in a STEM profession. Sr provide those STEM role models! Imagine how powerful it would be if girls’ classrooms included them from a young age.
In your classroom, highlight STEM women when you can, and even talk about the lack of women in STEM fields with ALL of your students. As an example, women are all over the gaming community, and yet of the top 500 Esports Earners, only one (yeah, one!) is a woman, Chiquite Evans (this is worth discussing!).
Encourage girls to start or join the school eSports team or sign up for the computer science class, and encourage all students to support awesome female STEM role models!
You can also post female STEM role models all over your classroom. You can post these STEM Role Model Posters to inspire and empower your female students (available in 8 different languages!). These are definitely some women in STEM who we wish we grew up knowing!
Women to Follow
Jacky Wright, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft.
Barbara Whye, Intel’s chief diversity and inclusion officer and in charge of furthering Intel’s Diversity in Technology Initiative to increase the presence of women and people of color in the technology industry.
Reshma Sujani, the founder of “Girls Who Code”.
Simone Giertz, Swedish YouTuber and inventor of amazing useless robot.
Dianna Leilani Cowern, Physics Girl on YouTube.
Women in STEM Books for All Ages
Read these books to your students, your children, your friends at work, whatever you want. Just read these books!
“Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World”
“Trailblazers: 33 Women in Science Who Changed the World”
“Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science”
“The Gendered Brain: The NEw Neuroscience That Shtters the Myth of the Female Brain”
Know an awesome Canadian STEM girl looking to further her education? Encourage her to apply for one of these scholarships:
FIRST Robotics Canadian Women in STEM Scholarship
CEMF Undergraduate Ambassador Scholarships
MPOWER Financing Women in STEM Scholarship
If this roundup didn’t have enough STEM women for you…
Read this Medium Article: “The Future of Computer Science and Tech: 12 Young Women to Watch” to check our more awesome girls in STEM, or watch these TED Talks to keep your inspiration (and motivation) to empower women in STEM going!
Know a young girl who is interested in technology? Check out our upcoming camps and programs to give them a head start in a safe and supportive environment!
And that concludes our (not comprehensive!) women in STEM roundup. Hopefully, this can be a great jumping-off point for you to work to empower women and girls to join STEM fields.
Remember, International Women’s Day is not one day a year to check a box and think to yourself, “I’ve done my part in advancing women!” this is work that needs to continue year-round in order to pave the way for better opportunities for women and girls everywhere.
Check out the UN’s “Twelve small actions with big impact for Generation Equality” so you can read how you can keep supporting and uplifting women all year long and be part of the creation of the next generation of fearless women!