How Do We Get More Girls in STEM?
Girls can sometimes lose interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields early — but you have the power to encourage them.
Many girls lose interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities and education by age 15 — before they step foot on a college campus or choose a profession. There are many reasons for this: peer pressure, misperceptions about STEM careers, and a lack of role models or parental support.
Today, women represent only 28% of the STEM workforce — but we can change that statistic for future generations. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to inspire the young women in your life to engage with STEM. Consider the following ideas to encourage and inspire.
5 Ways to Ignite Girls’ Interest in STEM
1. Infuse STEM into Play as Part of Early Childhood Development
Toy aisles are clearly gendered. Boys’ aisles are filled with action figures and technology and science sets, while their girl-focused counterparts are decked in pink and filled with passive-play options. You can encourage the girls you know to try something different, like a microscope kit, building blocks or an insect or butterfly habitat. And by joining the fun, you can show a girl that it’s good to be curious and engaged — and that learning has no age limits.
2. Confront Peer Pressure
If a girl you know is getting pushback from peers about her interest in STEM, encourage her to meet others who share similar interests — science camps and events hosted through local museums can be great for networking. You also can help her create a confidence-building support system of family and friends by visiting the aquarium or zoo, hosting a rocket-launch watch party or offering your kitchen for an afternoon of science experiments.
Olay has committed $1 Million to support women in STEM, starting with a $500,000 donation to the United Negro College Fund. Together, we can #FacetheSTEMgap.
3. Connect with Role Models
Think about people you know in STEM fields and how they might shed some light on what they do. Family members, teachers, colleagues, friends and even casual acquaintances could have valuable insights. If you know a girl who is interested, perhaps she could connect with them to learn more about their work, STEM education and career paths.
4. Show Your Support
You won’t have all the answers — and that’s okay. Encourage curiosity and look to other sources of information to help you along the way: NASA, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Exploratorium are great resources.
Plus, don’t forget that your language speaks volumes. Avoid saying things that can undermine a person’s confidence, like “I’m so bad at math” or “I could never be an engineer.” Instead, say things like “I love how interested you are in science!” or “Could you explain that to me?”
5. Find Sources of STEM Inspiration
With just a little digging, it’s easy to find stories that resonate with girls interested in STEM. If you know an avid reader, these books are great options for a range of ages:
- “Little People, BIG DREAMS: Women in Science” by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara
- “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race” by Margot Lee Shetterly
- “Rosie Revere, Engineer” by Andrea Beaty
- “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World” by Rachel Ignotofsky
The next generation of women in STEM is setting the course for their future right now. By playing a part in it, you’re helping them grow their self-confidence, achieve success and someday change the world.