The Struggle to Engage Girls in Steam Subjects

engage girls in steam subjects

Too few girls pursue careers in technology, computer science, engineering, and the complement of eSTEAM subjects.

All over the country, parents, teachers and industry leaders have studied, surveyed, incentivized, intervened, mentored, recruited. They’ve done everything they think they can do to encourage more girls to pursue eSTEAM. There are fantastic programs, such as First Bytes, a computer science summer camp for high school girls at the University of Texas. There are inspiring role models from Google project manager Bri Connelly to Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. There are amazing gatherings such as the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. There are thousands of mentors, female and male, and organizations like the Anita Borg Institute’s Award for Technology Entrepreneurship that recognize a woman who builds an innovative, ground-breaking and game-changing technology startup.

Still, engaging girls and young women in STEAM subjects for serious academic study and career pathways is an ongoing struggle, especially in computer science, technology and engineering. We’ve backpedaled: a large, promising part of a generation of young women has opted out of certain STEAM fields—especially engineering and computer science.

The reasons are chronic and deep-rooted: Fear of failure. Subtle and not-so-subtle gender biases. Lack of self-confidence. Nurtured apprehension. Not enough female role models. A reluctance to take risks. Pressure for top grades dissuading girls from STEAM courses. Lack of exposure and information on STEAM. Perception that STEAM isn’t creative or social.

I believe that teaching entrepreneurial skills is a key solution to resolving this lack of women in the sciences. And at the top of the list are two intertwined skills: following curiosity and thinking creatively.

Girls who learn to cultivate their innate curiosity and creativity will experience the joy of learning unleashed. Entrepreneurial education sets the curiosity and creativity in motion, and the result is a growth mindset. Pursuing entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but cultivating a growth mindset is for everyone. Whether a student pursues an entrepreneurial career or not, the growth mindset is a treasure. I believe it is a sustainable national resource more valuable than any oil field.

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences in engaging girls and young women in STEAM subjects. Have you encouraged them, or helped them overcome social setbacks? Thank you for sharing.

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