In the year 1940, only 3.8% of women in the United States had completed four years of college.
Fast forward to 2022, and the number is up to almost 40%.
In fact, women make up about 47% of the general workforce, and roughly 53% of the college-educated workforce.
As the numbers continue to rise, it’s clearer than ever that more women are achieving higher-education degrees and taking on leadership roles.
Yet women continue to be underrepresented in fields related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – better known as STEM.
Going back to the numbers, even though women make up about half of the labor force, they account for only 28% of STEM jobs in the United States.
Studies have shown that girls and boys display roughly the same amount of interest in STEM subjects in the lower grades. Even through middle school, the level of engagement remains fairly even.
By high school, however, girls’ participation in STEM subjects drops off quickly. As classes become more streamlined and college-focused, fewer girls stay on a STEM-connected path.
But there’s good news too — the number of women in STEM is rising, albeit slowly.
While only 140,000 women completed STEM-related degrees in 2009, that number jumped to 200,000 in 2016 – and has only gone up from there.
Furthermore, there are plenty of steps we can take to make sure our girls are given every chance to excel in whatever STEM field intrigues them.
Read on to learn about some of our tips for encouraging young women to embrace STEM subjects and stay involved in these essential fields.
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Tips to Encourage Girls in STEM
Make the Subject Engaging
One of the most obvious ways to build buy-in with girls (or any young person) is to make the subject matter exciting.
Give girls a chance to see the fascinating, awe-inspiring side of STEM subjects, instead of simply reducing it to a workbook page or a set of math problems.
It can be challenging to come up with novel ways to keep students engaged, but the payoff is worth it.
When girls have time to play around with STEM concepts, to get their hands dirty and experiment, and to actually create something as a result of their research… this is when real learning occurs.
This is also when the devotion to the subject begins.
Coming up with ways to make STEM fun doesn’t have to be exhausting for parents, guardians, or teachers.
In fact, companies like KiwiCo are making it easier than ever.
This science-based company delivers crates full of hands-on STEM content to your door every month (or every three or six months, depending on your preference and subscription).
The idea behind KiwiCo is to let young people delve into the science concepts themselves, rather than take a backseat to a video, teacher, or textbook.
Each crate comes packed with all of the materials you’ll need to carry out the experiments within. Best of all, the crates are available in a huge array of styles and subjects.
Whether your daughter is a toddler, a third grader, a middle schooler, or a senior in high school, there’s a line of KiwiCo boxes tailored to her age and skill level.
The types, or “lines” of boxes vary, too. For example, girls who are taken with the idea of traveling might enjoy the Atlas Crate line, which incorporates the study of other cultures into its projects and designs.
Budding artists might enjoy the Doodle Crate line, while aspiring chefs may vibe with the Yummy Crate.
KiwiCo gives you the option to switch lines at any point during your subscription, so your daughter can continue to explore different options and find out what she really loves to do.
Make Time for STEM
Making the material fun and exciting is important, but it won’t work if we don’t give girls the time they need to actually get involved.
Even though our lives today are busier than ever, it’s essential to carve out time for science and math related learning if we want our girls to actually care about the subjects.
While some schools may go above and beyond when it comes to emphasizing STEM subjects, the sad truth is that not every school devotes equal time.
Pandemic learning loss has created some serious gaps in basic reading and math foundations, and many teachers are under serious pressure to try to bring student understanding up to baseline.
These difficult circumstances can sometimes result in less time spent focusing on the most exciting and enjoyable elements of the STEM fields.
This is another area in which KiwiCo crates shine. Because each crate has already been thoughtfully planned and curated by a team of experts, the hardest part is already done.
There’s no need to go on the hunt for experiments, materials, or resources explaining the hows and whys. KiwiCo includes all of this for you with every shipment.
The company has recently started offering bundles for schools and groups, providing options for bulk orders and offering standards alignment packages to ensure that the science content being delivered matches the state’s requirements.
By letting KiwiCo handle the most time-consuming elements of STEM planning, you’ll be able to devote more time to the good stuff: the making, connecting, building, wondering, fixing, and figuring out that builds girls’ confidence and love for the subject.
Give Girls Role Models
It’s also important to give girls visible role models in the field.
Take the time to find role models for young women to learn from, whether by finding resources online, checking out books or biographies, or talking to real women you may know in the field.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider researching Mae C. Jemison, a doctor, engineer, and astronaut.
Go back in time and appreciate the historic contributions of Katherine Johnson, one of the NASA mathematicians whose work helped launch the first successful US spaceflight.
Let your daughter look into Brittany Wenger, who at only 29 has already done impressive cancer research.
Ask around and see if any of your own friends or neighbors are women in STEM, and don’t be shy about asking them to connect with your daughter or your local school!
Studies have shown that up to 60% of female STEM workers were influenced by a role model in the field.
Clearly, letting girls see what STEM success looks like is a huge piece of motivating them to follow the same path.
Build a Community
Just as role models are important, so is fostering a sense of community in the STEM field.
When girls can work together and help one another, they’re more likely to stay interested in STEM subjects throughout high school and beyond.
Building a community can be challenging when there aren’t readily available STEM options, but do a little digging. You may find science and math-themed camps, clubs, or extracurriculars available at your local school or community center.
Encouraging girls to participate and build friendships in these activities will help strengthen their passion for STEM for years to come.
If you’re unable to find these resources near you, don’t despair.
KiwiCo, the company behind the STEM-centered resource crates mentioned earlier, also fosters a strong digital and in-person science community.
Girls can share and discuss their finished projects and proudly display the results of their research and experiments.
They can also compare notes with other budding scientists, researchers, and mathematicians who have completed their own KiwiCo projects.
KiwiCo has a thriving following on TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter, making it easy for girls to connect with one another and share their STEM achievements.
Social media can be a thorny issue for young people, but you can harness its powers for good by letting it open the door to a community of women and girls in STEM across the globe.
Final Thoughts on Encouraging Girls in STEM
The number of women and girls in STEM will continue to rise. In fact, studies show that in many states, girls are actually outperforming boys on STEM-content tests.
We can keep that number going up by finding ways to make the material engaging, devoting time for experimenting, spotlighting important role models, and building an active STEM community.
After all, a STEM workforce where women are represented equally is a project everyone can be proud to be a part of.