Despite the many ways that the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields have propelled society forward, these industries are experiencing a glaring lack of progress in one particular area: personnel. While men continue to flock to STEM jobs, the number of women in the STEM fields has been stagnant for years. In a 2011 report titled “Women in STEM,” the U.S. Department of Commerce discovered that the percentage of women in STEM jobs did not increase by even a single percentage point between 2000 and 2009. The report also revealed a few other troubling statistics. Over this same period of time, the number of women in computer science and mathematics jobs decreased by 3 percent. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Commerce found that females constituted only 14 percent of all engineers.
Other entities have established similar outcomes for women in the STEM fields. According to the American Association of University Women, women at the college level are far more likely to drop their STEM-oriented majors than their male counterparts. This move away from STEM does not begin at the university level, however. The Girl Scouts of America conducted a 2012 study in which it found that nearly three-quarters of teenage girls showed an interest in STEM. Despite this fact, 57 percent of study participants said that females their age did not think about pursuing careers in any of these fields. Nearly half said that they would feel uncomfortable being the only women in a STEM classroom.
However, there is a way to address these statistics and encourage more women to seek employment in the STEM sectors. More than anything else, spearheading STEM efforts during the grade school years is instrumental in fostering a passion for STEM among young girls. Across the United States, there are a number of programs creating more avenues through which girls can engage with STEM programming and work toward a future in these careers. Read on to explore three exciting programs that are promoting STEM in the lives of girls.
1000 Girls, 1000 Futures
Operated through the New York Academy of Sciences, 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures is an innovative program for teens between the ages of 13 and 18 years old. The initiative provides a stepping-off point for girls who are interested in STEM, but who do not know where or how to initiate their careers. To this end, 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures connects young mentees with talented females who are employed in the STEM fields.
Under the mentorship of these successful women, participating teens have an opportunity to engage with online STEM programming that will help them to hone their skills in areas such as critical reasoning and collaboration. Working with a mentor also provides young participants with STEM role models and connects them with resources that will support their future in these fields.
Along with mentorship, those in the 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures program gain access to a worldwide network of mentees and mentors. Armed with all of these resources, young participants can locate internship opportunities, determine where they would like to take their college studies, and more.
Dedicated to fostering strength and intelligence among young girls, Girls, Inc., operates a groundbreaking STEM program for girls between the 8th and 12th grades. Titled Eureka!, this initiative offers a females-only atmosphere in which participants can work toward careers in the STEM fields.
Carried out over the course of five years, Eureka! primarily serves students who will become the first members of their families to pursue a college education. Program participants begin by attending two four-week summer camps prior to the 8th and 9th grade. During this time, teens can engage in exploratory science activities and personal development sessions at a local community college.
For the remainder of their high school years, groups of 30 Eureka! participants convene for monthly STEM sessions that facilitate hands-on learning and skill-building exercises. The educational model not only reinforces these topics throughout girls’ high school careers, but it helps to foster confidence in their individual STEM capabilities. Eureka! also partners with local organizations and businesses to connect young students with mentors who can support their STEM progress.
These lessons can help to prepare teens for eventual placement in paid STEM internships during their third year in Eureka! The program’s final two years involve college preparation. Through Eureka! workshops, teens can obtain assistance in all facets of the college application process.
Black Girls CODE
The STEM-oriented programming at Black Girls CODE provides girls from communities that are underserved with a means of learning key computing skills. The organization hosts an array of after-school educational programs and other extracurricular workshops designed to teach the fundamentals of computer coding to young girls of color. During the sessions, girls not only learn about general computing technology, but they also study more specific programming languages such as Ruby on Rails and Scratch.
Black Girls CODE supplements its regular programming with exciting hackathon events for its young participants. In 2017, the organization hosted its first Code a Brighter Future Hackathon series at the New York University Tandon School of Engineering. Over the course of three days, 100 girls coded community-minded mobile applications with the assistance of mentors and coders. Black Girls CODE also facilitates annual hackathons in New York and San Francisco. The events welcome participants between the ages of 12 and 17 for three days of social justice-themed coding activities.
Through this programming training, Black Girls CODE hopes that its young participants will develop a passion for technology and STEM. More importantly, the program is working toward its goal of training 1 million female programmers by the year 2040.