Slim female representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics can be blamed in part to young girls feeling uninspired to enter these fields. And why do they feel this way? Well, they don’t think they belong there and not enough is done to convince them otherwise.
Girls view STEM fields as male-dominated not only in terms of representation but also the skills that men are naturally thought to possess over women (analytical, methodical, logical, etc). When a girl watches a movie about a scientist or looks up who the CEO of a big tech company is, it will be unlikely she sees anyone who looks like herself. Even if she decides to enroll in an engineering program in university, she may end up being the only woman in her class. Men overwhelmingly dominate these spaces, and the media reflects the same image. (The HBO show Silicon Valley is one example).
So it become a vicious cycle. Girls assume it’s not their place to participate in STEM and when they grow up, they choose other professions. Then the next generation of girls look for role models in those fields and find a sea of men.
To encourage young girls to enter STEM fields, they need to be shown that they have the exact same ability to do so as the techie boys in their class. And parents need to lead the charge. Unfortunately, many parents also hold the same antiquated idea that STEM fields are only for boys. Let’s put an end to that now.
One solution is bringing home STEM toys that are geared towards girls with colourful and cute products and packaging. Colorific’s Build a Bot is a great example of a toy that can get girls excited about robotics. DIY kits can introduce girls to engineering by providing tools and instructions to build things, like your own dollhouse. When girls play with STEM toys and discover their competency in skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking, their confidence will soar.
Parents can also enroll their daughters in after-school coding or robotics classes, which are becoming increasingly common, and other STEM-based learning opportunities that are available locally. And then parents have to pay attention to where their daughter succeeds. If she’s the top student in her math class, encourage her to continue to build success in that subject. You could have a future Ada Lovelace on your hands!
Teaching kids about women who have succeeded in STEM fields is important, because it will provide girls with role models and show them that STEM is not limited to men only. Classrooms and living rooms should be screening “Hidden Figures”, a movie that traces the stories of three female mathematicians who worked at NASA. After the film, girls can play with a new LEGO set that celebrates the women who have played critical roles at NASA.
There is a growing need for more qualified STEM professionals, so these fields need to begin being more inclusive of half the population. There’s a little girl out there who could change the world with a mathematic equation or a scientific theory. She just needs to be shown she can, and playing with STEM toys is a great place to start.
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