To improve representation of women in STEM fields, it’s starts with empowering young girls. I believe many little girls have the possibility to later succeed in STEM fields. But, after years of no encouragement, they never make it there. They need the respect, encouragement, and an active belief that they can succeed early on.
Having respect is important for one’s own self-esteem, and is the true recipe for success. For girls in school, dress code goes against that. Dress code violations for items such as short-shorts or “excess” shoulder make girls feel so unwelcomed. In an environment where feeling welcomed is limited, it’s hard to thrive. Rules that create environments such as this insinuate women going to school is a more of a privilege than a right we have worked for. While not necessarily a STEM issue, school is the starting place for children to be interested in science and math, and both genders should feel comfortable in their own skin.
In school, succeeding in a subject like science or math is great but I want girls to have more opportunities outside of the classroom to apply what they have learned. There should be some government/school funded activities for girls to experience STEM. It would be like a Gifted & Talented program but more focused on science and math. The more comfortable they feel with science and math, higher the chance they will be interested in STEM fields later on. Encouragement needs to be early on just to open up girls to the idea of being in STEM.If girls feel comfortable in it, they won’t be scared to try or even make a mistake.
Last semester, I helped host a Girl Scout activity that lead to each troop member earning a badge. To earn the badge, these fifth grade girls had to use a hammer and nails, a saw, and a level. Some of the girls were nervous to use these tools. So before we started anything, I decorated a hammer with purple washi tape. At the beginning of the activity, this “pretty” hammer was to be passed around the room. Once a troop member received the hammer, they had to say their name and their favorite hobby. My goal was for the girls to feel comfortable with their tools and because of that I think they felt more confident in what they did. Some were still nervous about hitting a nail with a hammer but I made sure to encourage them in the fact that these are just tools, and they were the ones in control.
Encouragement is womderful, but it goes hand-in-hand with believing that girls can achieve their dreams. The future is changing how we let young girls see themselves. We tell them they can do anything, but do they feel it? Cause sometimes, I don’t think grown women even feel that way. Women can be encouraged to join a STEM field, but others need to believe in them from a young age that they can do this. From there, girls can feel that being in STEM is normal rather than a rarity. Since I was young, I knew I wanted to do something that dealt with science and math, but that was due to my loving mother and several teachers. My mother believed in me, watched Nova with me once a week, and was an accountant who loved math. Then since the fourth grade, I have had several science and math teachers who saw potential in me and that made my self-esteem soar.
These changes are generally just a change of thinking and perspective for young girls who could potentially be in STEM. Our society is changing, and with this shift there are always obstacles. I believe that biggest obstacle will be combining the unique insight of women with the general status quo of STEM. You have always have heard the explanation, “That’s just how we do it.” Women are increasingly become more of a representation in STEM and are starting to make a mark. STEM needs new ideas and insight to look at problems a different way. To have women conform to how it’s been doesn’t give the benefit STEM needs or women. But, STEM fields will adjust for the better and from there representation will grow exponentially.