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Girl Scout Research Institute Presents “Generation STEM”

February 14, 2012


The Girls Scouts Research Institute released its “Generation STEM” report this week, detailing their recent study on girls interests in STEM and giving some recommendations on how to further engage girls in STEM related careers.

First, the report encourages educators, parents, and mentors to encourage girls to solve problems, ask questions, and to engage in creative and hands-on activities. These habits are all found in girls who are interested in STEM subjects, and STEM girls tend to be more academically engagedand have higher grades both in STEM and non-STEM subjects. It is also important that teachers and guardians help girls to be confident, hard working, and have high self-esteem. Girls who believe that “obstacles make [them] stronger” and “girls can do everything boys can” are more likely to be STEM girls.

 

Next, girls need to be exposed to adults who currently work in STEM-related fields, so that they can get a feel for what it means to work in those fields and can picture themselves doing those jobs. STEM girls are more likely than non-STEM girls to know people in STEM fields, especially women with those careers, and to have been exposed to activities and venues such as science museums. It is then crucial that these girls continue to be engaged and exposed to these jobs.

While a large majority of girls (81%!) say they are interested in STEM careers, very few of them rank those jobs as their first choice. Their STEM-related interests need to be supported and encouraged by both parents and teachers, and they need to be encouraged to think about what careers they are interested in from a young age. Girls are more likely to give up on tough material, and so their role models need to be guiding them and keeping them on the STEM track. Girls’ are most likely to list helping people as a top career goal, and thus they must be shown that this can be accomplished through STEM careers. Of the 81% of girls who are interested in STEM jobs, roughly 30% would list medical or veterinary care as their top choice field, these girls need to be shown similar ways that they can help people by pursuing careers in STEM.

Finally, in order to get more girls involved in STEM fields, it is important that stereotypes about girls in science and math be avoided, especially for girls of minority racial backgrounds. While African American and Hispanic girls are more interested in learning how things work and building things than their caucasian counterparts, they are less likely to seek career advice from parents, their teachers are less supportive of pursuing STEM careers, and worry more about sexual harassment in STEM workplaces. 57% of all girls feel that they would have to work harder than men to be taken seriously in STEM fields, and many feel they would not be treated equally in their jobs. It is important that these differences in attitudes be addressed, and that the stereotypes and rumors be disspelled.

By encouraging girls to join the STEM workforce, progress can be greatly accelerated and the workforce can be expanded. However, in order to do this it is important to pay attention to the specific needs of girl STEM students, to keep them engaged and interested not only in their STEM studies, but in STEM careers as well.

Read the full report: Generation STEM

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