Did you know that 66 percent of 4th grade girls say they like science and math, but just 18 percent of girls pursue engineering majors and 14 percent aspire to be scientists by the time they reach high school. Our young girls represent a deep potential pool of talent in STEM-related fields, but they aren’t fully realizing their potential.
So how can we address this imbalance?
The key word is engagement – and the earlier we can engage, the better. Fostering an interest in STEM among young girls will provide the information and encouragement they need to pursue these disciplines and develop a rewarding career.
Organizations across the country are increasingly recognizing their untapped potential, and putting in the time to close the gender gap. The Girl Scouts of America are taking every opportunity to help their members foster an interest in STEM subjects – and no wonder, as the Girl Scouts were founded by the visionary Juliette Gordon ‘Daisy’ Low, who believed in the power of every girl. The Girl Scouts encourage their members to explore different aspects of STEM each year, and have developed a K-12 curriculum that relates STEM learning and knowledge to real-world situations for their members.
Another great example of best practice is SciGirls, a kids’ TV show, website and educational outreach program that has reached almost 14 million girls, educators and families, making it the most widely accessed STEM program for young girls in America. Funded by the National Science Foundation, SciGirls’ interactive content and activities are aimed at inspiring, enabling and maximizing STEM participation, facilitating a positive perception of STEM and encouraging more girls to consider studying the subjects in college. A key partner of SciGirls is the National Girls Collaborative Project, which is committed to bringing together organizations across the country that aim to inform and encourage girls to follow STEM careers.
Role models and mentors can be highly effective in creating and maintaining an interest in STEM among girls. The GAINS (Girls Advancing In STEM) Scholar Network has taken its lead from social network platforms, and connects girls and young women with female leaders in STEM. Leaders can come from universities, laboratories, commercial companies or other organizations anywhere in the world, all serving as excellent role models and mentors. Members create a profile on the GAINS Network and can connect with other members, post messages and blogs, and take part in the mentor programs.
Another mentoring project making a real difference is The Million Women Mentors initiative, which is aiming for one million STEM mentors (male and female) to increase the interest of girls and women in following and succeeding in STEM programs and careers. Currently, the initiative has more than half a million pledges and counting.
In Los Angeles, the first all-girl school in the district focused on STEM is set to open in 2016. The Girls Academic Leadership Academy is located on the Los Angeles High School campus, and will initially take grades 6 and 9, with full support for 6-12 grades planned by the 2019/2020 school year.
At Verizon, we are working to inspire young minds to get involved with STEM and build brighter futures. We partner with organizations such as Girls Who Code, an organization that works to engage, educate and equip girls with the computing skills necessary to succeed in today’s tech world. Its founder is the inspirational Reshma Saujani, the former Deputy Public Advocate for New York City and a catalyst in closing the gender gap in STEM education.
Here at Verizon we have a great role models too, like Nicki Palmer, who is senior vice president and chief network officer for Verizon Wireless. Learn about Nicki’s experiences, the challenges she’s encountered along the way, and how she’s persevered in the face of adversity.
Prepare to be inspired!