I have had a lot of interactions with parents of young girls lately and the conversations have been amazing. Many parents are giving up the "princess kits" and investing in robotics and science based toys and games. This is a great start and a step in the right direction.
3 girls getting lessons in AWESOME
A few years ago, I wrote a book for charter schools called Charter X (available here:http://www.lulu.com/shop/rob-garcia/charter-x/paperback/product-21857508.html). It is a guide for charter schools to write better assignments that are fun and engaging, how to assess kids for the right careers, and an entire chapter on helping female students get into STEM careers. I would recommend Charter X for any parent as well because it has valuable guides on steering your girls into careers based in interests, aptitude, and hobbies.
Anyway, I have enclosed the chapter for girls for FREE, and I hope it helps.
"An essential component of the Charter X philosophy is your female population. Some people will be bothered that I devoted an entire chapter targeting one gender. Those same people will probably be bothered that I woke up today. I’d rather spend my time focused on the fact that only 14% of engineers are women and that only 4.8% of Fortune 500 companies are run by women.
We hear about the inequalities in pay between genders, but to truly understand why it occurs, I think it takes a deeper understanding of the issue. It’s not groundbreaking that the highest paying jobs right out of college are all engineering or science/mathematical based. Yet women represent a small amount of these careers.
From the Women in Technology website: “Forty percent of today’s women and minority chemists and chemical engineers say they were discouraged from pursuing a STEM career (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) at some point in their lives.
colleges are cited as the
leading place in the American education system where discouragement happens
(60%) and college professors as the individuals most likely responsible for the
discouragement (44%). The U.S.
K-12 education system falls short, too. On average, the survey
respondents give it a “D” for the job it does to encourage minorities to study
STEM subjects and a “D+” for girls. (Bayer Facts of Science Education XIV
survey, March 2010) U.S.
In my research, I came across an amazing Doctoral dissertation by Carol Heaverlo that focused on the phenomenon of female loss of interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) careers from 6th to 12th grade. This paragraph sums up several of the main issues succinctly:
“Despite this call to action, young girls and women are still confronted with obstacles on their pathway to education
and careers in STEM. From a lack of female role models and mentors, engrained societal gender stereotypes reinforced by friends, family, and community, lack of confidence due to internal feelings of Inadequacy (Imposter Syndrome), to differential teaching practices in the classroom (Besecke & Reilly, 2006; Buck, Plano Clark, Leslie-Pelecky, Lu, & Cerda-Lizarraga, 2008; Buck, Leslie-Pelecky, & Kirby, 2002; Cleaves, 2005)
In her dissertation, Carol included a study that was conducted that listed the factors that added to Hispanic student’s participation in STEM careers. I think it is relevant because they are non gender specific.
1) support of their family members;
2) high ability student;
3) interactive curriculum;
4) pre-college coursework that prepared them for rigorous math and science
courses in college;
5) teachers that showed an interest in and a desire for the students to learn;
6) small class size; and
7) living in a small community where there is usually a commitment to “place and being not found in a larger city.” (p.143) (Brown, Whitman, 2011)
These factors are definitely worth examining. In my time in the classroom, I encountered many parents whose career planning for their daughters consisted solely of finding them a husband before they got “old” at 22.
Let that sink in for a moment. This type of patriarchal and antiquated expectation is definitely a factor in why our girls
lose the desire for technical careers. I will use this chapter to list resources and techniques to help build up our girls into confident, professional, young women.
One of the best things you can do as an educator is foster exposure to STEM careers for female students. This can be done in a variety of ways such as guest speakers that are female engineers, and reading books that are female based. It’s very important to find engaging speakers that female students can identify with and want to emulate.
Field trips to engineering companies are another great way to create interest. These can be arranged by calling ahead and finding out what they offer for high school tours.
Changing Gender Attitudes
It’s very important to support your girls and make sure that if any male students make comments about their future, their intelligence, or their career choices, that you intervene and put an end to those kinds of comments. It’s absolutely crucial to support female students and to create an attitude within them of resilience, success, and vision. I can’t imagine how many potential female scientists, engineers, or doctors gave up their dreams because some guy in a science class said something stupid to them that shook them up.
I read about an amazing young woman named Maria Castro that CNN’s Soledad O Brian profiled. Maria grew up in a low income family in
and dreamed of being an engineer. Her grades were good but her family wasn’t
supportive at all. In fact, her father told her teacher that “it was just a
matter of time until she fails.” Instead of accepting that pessimistic
assessment of her talents, Maria petitioned for a specialized accelerated math
class to be created at her school. Phoenix, Az
She became captain of a robotics team and enrolled in honors classes.
When I read about this in 2011, I sent a small check and my first book to her with a personal note to not give up. I was thrilled to hear from her a few months later. She had gotten accepted into
and was pursuing a dual major in technical
fields. Maria has the kind of attitude that we need to foster in young women.
The ability to see what can be, not what is. Arizona State
STEM From a Female Perspective
One very valuable resource I have found for encouraging female students is a series of books written by Danica Mckellar (Winnie from the Wonder Years). They are very cleverly put together and designed well. The covers are deliberately designed to look like fashion magazines and her ability to break down mathematical concepts is easy to read and well researched.
These books cover everything from middle school Pre-Algebra all the way up to high school Geometry. I purchased a few and was really impressed with the work she put into them. Definitely work purchasing for your school library.
Another resource that is helpful is engineergirl.org. It has articles about female engineers, links to other engineering sites, and is designed in a format that will appeal to female students.
Many organizations, like the Society for Women Engineers, offer scholarships and resources for females that wish to become engineers.
- Girls should be encouraged to pursue engineering and technical fields
- Every effort should be made to provide resources for them to gain exposure to these careers
- The greatest drop off of female interest in science and math occurs in middle school
- Educators should try and set up a positive support structure that encourages young women to explore STEM careers"
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